Zoo owner fined after BBC exposes illegal sale of lion

BBC undercover journalism bagged another conviction last week, after an Essex zoo owner who illegally sold a lion to a reporter was fined £750 for breaching the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act.

Yolanda Surcouf, owner of Basildon Zoo, was caught on camera selling a lioness to a journalist posing as a dealer in wild animals on the BBC1 consumer affairs programme The UK’s Worst Pet Shops.

After being exposed by the sting on the programme, which aired on 19 February, Surcouf was found to have broken the law under the terms of the zoo’s licence, by failing to notify Basildon District Council of the sale.

The programme also alleged that Surcouf failed to complete any paperwork for the £1,500 sale of the lioness and held no regard for the animal’s welfare, when she said to the journalist: “I do not care if you chop her up for steaks.”

Surcouf then told the reporter: “We are experts in cover-ups with cats.

Nobody knows nothing (sic). It’s nothing to do with us because there will be no paperwork or anything.”

She also said on camera: “I’ve got some little leopard cats that can go.”

Despite Surcouf’s denials, she was fined by Basildon Magistrates’ Court when the district council brought the case after officers saw the programme and decided to investigate her failure to disclose details of the sale.

By Wale Azeez

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