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London Zoo chief fears for lions during World Cup

PUBLISHED: 16:40 25 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:47 07 September 2010

ENGLAND Football fans might desperately be hoping the three lions will roar during this summer s World Cup but worried bosses of London Zoo fear boozy supporters might provoke an attack from their own wild cats. Director General of the zoo, Ralph Armond,

ENGLAND Football fans might desperately be hoping the three lions will roar during this summer's World Cup but worried bosses of London Zoo fear boozy supporters might provoke an attack from their own wild cats.

Director General of the zoo, Ralph Armond, is anxious at proposals which would see up to 20,000 fans descend on Regent's Park this summer to see live World Cup matches relayed onto giant screens at a Fan Fest just yards away from the animals.

In a four page letter of objection to Camden Council Mr Armond fears for the welfare of the animals and believes drunken football fans might even break into the zoo to "see how close they can get to the Lions".

He is the latest high profile figure to be added to the list of names including Dame Judi Dench, who are all objecting to the controversial plan brought by the Greater London Council on behalf of the world football body FIFA.

Mr Armond has deep concerns that his animals will be affected by the noise levels from 20,000 raucous football fans coming to the proposed site at Gloucester Green, on the North side of the park.

He said: "The scale of this event is way beyond anything we have experienced before and its location could not be closer to the Zoo, literally metres away from the penguins, macaws, anteaters, lions, squirrel monkeys and the Blackburn Bird Pavilion.

"ZSL is most concerned about the location of this event. We think this corner of Regent's Park is a wholly inappropriate location for the Fan Fest and we cannot believe there is not another location either in Regents' Park or elsewhere in London that does not have this serious animal welfare impact."

He added: "We believe that 24 days of exceptional noise, (foghorns, 20,000 spectators, peak 'roars' when a goal is scored) adjacent to the zoo could create a serious animal welfare issue."

Mr Armond highlighted research papers which note the effects on animals in captivity of a constant barrage of noise.

The Zoo's own research shows gorillas will be "adversely affected" and he notes a study which showed the stress of noise has lead to cannibalism and decreased reproductive performance in mice.

The Fan Fest is planned to be staged for 60 of the 64 matches at the World Cup, which is being hosted by South Africa between June 11 and July 11.

There will be space for 18,000 fans who can apply for free tickets to the event as well as around 2,000 corporate seats which will be sold nearer the time.

Organisers say there will be controls on the maximum amount of alcohol that can be purchased by each fan from stalls set up around the viewing area.

But Mr Armond fears the often volatile mix of alcohol and football could see trouble spill into the Zoo.

He said: "We have in the past experienced people under the influence of alcohol trying to climb over the fence into the zoo. This is a potential extra temptation at night.

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