Zoos may be required to provide inspectors with copies of inventories showing how many animals died in their care from next year, following a move by Tayto Park that kept the information out of the public domain.
The theme park in Co Meath discontinued the practice of furnishing zoo inspectors with records containing details of animal deaths last year on foot of an “internal review”.
However, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan said zoos may now be required to supply copies of these records “as a matter of course” after the issue was raised in a parliamentary question.
Tayto Park had previously sought to prevent the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) from publishing animal inventories in 2017, claiming that the information would damage its business and result in negative publicity.
Up to last year, NPWS officials were provided with copies of animal censuses during annual inspections carried out as part of the zoo licensing process.
They can now examine the records on site, but are not provided with a copy.
This means that the government agency does not hold a copy of the animal inventory, and it therefore cannot be accessed by the public under the Freedom of Information Act.
This contrasts to the position of the country’s other major zoos.
A spokesperson for Dublin Zoo said that it “will continue to supply a copy of its census to the [NPWS]”.
Both Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park publish animal census data in their annual reports.
However, Ms Madigan has indicated that new procedures may be introduced to compel zoos to provide copies of the relevant documentation during inspections from next year.
“The zoo inspection process is regularly reviewed by officials in my department and the issue of retaining copies of the animal inventory as a matter of course will be given consideration by the zoo inspectorate in the lead up to the next round of inspections in 2020,” she said in reply to a parliamentary question from Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger.
A spokesperson for Tayto Park said that the change in practice concerning animal inventories was due to an “internal review” and subsequent improvement of the zoo’s records.
“We provided the inventory, along with these new documents, for review by the inspectors during their on-site inspection process.
"Upon review… the zoo inspectors commented in the report that Tayto Park was a ‘well-run operation’ and ‘there were no concerns noted on review of the animal stock lists’.”
Records released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that 30 animals – or 7.9% of its collection – died in 2016.
The mortality rate decreased to 6.7% the following year.