AN animal rights pressure group has called on Edinburgh Zoo to cancel its entertainment nights amid concerns over the welfare of the animals.


It prompted the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) to move to assure People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) there will be no "drunken atmosphere" at evenings at Edinburgh Zoo after claims similar night events at another zoo led to one visitor trying to pour beer over a tiger and another accidentally punching a bird.

Edinburgh Zoo said that alcohol will be available at its Zoo Nights which are to be held over four nights in the summer but that entertainers and bars are situated away from the animals.

The adult-only evenings where Pimm's and champagne will be on offer run from 6pm until 10pm and cost £20 a ticket and are seen as one way of interesting younger people in conservation work carried out by the RZSS at the zoo.

A spokeswoman for Peta said: "As the group note in a letter to Chris West, the chief executive of Edinburgh Zoo, at similar recent events at the London Zoo, one person reportedly tried to pour beer on a tiger, another allegedly attempted to undress and enter the enclosure that held penguins and another fell and 'accidentally' punched a bird, among other incidents.

"According to Edinburgh Zoo's website, visitors will be permitted to consume alcohol in a 'relaxed atmosphere' and enjoy other after-hours entertainment to 'kick start' their Friday nights."

It was claimed allowing visitors in the zoo outside normal business hours "interrupts the animals' usual sleep schedule, especially when they behave in a manner that causes the animals distress".

ETA Director Mimi Bekhechi said: "Putting animals at risk for the sake of making a few pounds should make the public question Edinburgh Zoo's priorities."

A spokeswoman for the RZSS said the events attract people who may not normally visit a zoo who learn about endangered species and how to help.

She said: "Edinburgh Zoo Nights visitors have never shown behaviour of this nature, which we totally concur is unacceptable.

"Although alcohol is available in moderation, there is absolutely not a 'drunken' atmosphere."

She continued: "Our keepers are very careful to monitor our animals' behaviour at any evening event and these events are tailor-made to ensure there is no disturbance to them, with all entertainers and bars situated away from animal enclosures, even our disco is a silent one.

The spokeswoman added: "We would like to reassure you that we are confident that there are no welfare complications and the animals are always our priority.

"As a charity that receives no public funding we rely on gate attendance, events and sponsorship for our resources to care for animals and manage conservation, research and education programmes.

"This does mean exploring ways to increase our income in a world with escalating conservation challenges."

On offer will be champagne, cocktails, comedy, animal talks and encounters, street food, live music stage, live entertainment, Pimm's bar, face painting and fossil digs.

London Zoo was reported as saying earlier that its "Zoo Lates" evenings were safe and that only three people had been removed from events in two years.