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A group of meerkats are feared dead after escaping from a children’s farm.
The animals, native to Southern Africa’s Kalahari Desert, were acquired by Croxteth Park Farm in Liverpool.
But an unknown number managed to break out after an electric fence was not kept in “working order”, the Liverpool Echo reports.
An inspector said the creatures are now presumed missing or dead.
Their escape is among a number of problems found during two inspections by government and council inspectors at the site.
The popular children’s attraction was previously council-run, but was taken over by The Neighbourhood Services Company (NSC) in 2014.
A report to the council’s licensing committee said the farm acquired meerkats in 2016.
The meerkat breakouts happened last year.
Dr Jonathan Cracknell, a zoo inspector and veterinary surgeon, visited in February and March 2020.
The first inspection, on February 3, found some meerkats had escaped and that enclosures to birds of prey were not secure.
The report said: “It was found that the electric fence to the meerkat enclosure was not in working order and the enclosure was not maintained and constricted in such a way as to prevent the escape of the meerkats.
“It was found during the inspection that meerkats had escaped from the site and were presumed to be dead or missing.
“Similarly, it was found that the bird of prey enclosures were not padlocked so as to prevent unauthorised access to the enclosure.”
The inspection found a heat lamp for the meerkats was “smashed” and they were not “provided with a suitable source of heat”.
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The inspector recommended 52 conditions were introduced, but a second inspection on March 16 found more than half remained unmet.
At least one more meerkat had escaped between the two inspections.
The inspection found there were inadequate measures to stop animals escaping, including the electric fence used for the meerkats only functioning at 1% of the required power.
Meerkats are classed as wild animals and therefore require a specific zoo licence.
The site previously had a dispensation that meant it did not require a zoo licence due to the species it had on site.
But this was revoked last November due to the problems.
The remaining meerkats were re-homed.
The farm’s operators have applied for a new licence, but council officers say it should be refused.
Councillors will discuss the application next Monday.
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