Is Clissold Park suitable for its resident deer? Photo: © Izzie Tran

A deer was found dead in Clissold Park yesterday morning (Monday 14 February) – just six months to the day after a deer was fatally attacked in its pen, killed by a dog the previous evening when perimeter fencing around its enclosure was breached.

Circumstances surrounding the death of the adult doe have still to be confirmed but it seems that it may be the result of inadequate protection for the park’s deer.

Like the pygmy goats, they have had to endure more restricted living condition and have been vulnerable to break-ins in the middle of the building site while the park undergoes refurbishment.

Critics say that whilst Heritage Lottery-funded improvements have been made to the park and house, similar improvements for the park’s animals have not yet been forthcoming, despite what they say is a £36,000 annual budget allocated to their care. Four rabbits died on 30 November last year – killed by a fox according to Hackney Council. Some park users have also expressed concern about the whereabouts of the chickens, which seem to have disappeared.

All this has led to the formation yesterday of new local group, Clissold Park Zoo Watch (CPZW). CPWZ has launched a campaign for improved animal welfare at ‘Clissold Park Zoo’, Stoke Newington and are calling for the herd of eight fallow deer to be ‘re-homed’.

Julia Mazza, Clissold Park Zoo Watch supporter said: “How can the council account for its huge £36,000 annual  budget supposedly for the animal pens, when less than 14% of the zoo budget is actually spent on feed and vet bills, while the rest goes on overheads the animals don’t incur and grossly inflated theoretical staff costs? In the financial year 2009/10 only £542 was spent on vet bills — for 70 animals and birds.”

Under the Animal Welfare Act the council has a duty of care to safeguard the animals, including from dogs and vandals. If it were a private zoo the animal welfare officers would step in but as a local authority Hackney polices itself and is answerable to no-one.

Clissold Park Zoo Watch and its supporters have circulated a 10-point manifesto to Hackney’s mayor Jules Pipe, MPs Diane Abbott and Meg Hillier, and local councillors. It includes demands for rehoming the deer, improved security and staff training; transparency; and national care standards.

A picket of Clissold Park is planned for 11am on Saturday 19 March.

Commenting on yesterday’s dear death, Councillor Jonathan McShane, Cabinet Member for Community Services said: “This is an extremely upsetting incident for everyone involved with Clissold Park and the deer. We are currently carrying out a thorough investigation to find out exactly what happened. We will be working closely with Peter Green, our veterinary consultant, and will act on his recommendations. Inevitably our discussions with Mr Green will involve consideration of whether we are able to keep deer in the park in the long term.”

For more information on Clissold Park Zoo Watch, email: clissoldzoowatch@gmail.com

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