Zoo to close immediately over animal welfare breaches


Olmense zoo, the third-largest in Flanders, has lost its licence following a series of warnings about the way it treated its animals

60 days to appeal

The Olmense zoo is to close with immediate effect after repeatedly ignoring animal welfare rules. Flemish animal welfare minister Ben Weyts has withdrawn the licence from the park in Balen, Antwerp province, which has had a number of warnings over the past 10 years for not meeting strict requirements for the care of animals.

Its failings include not providing animals with adequate shelter from bad weather, and separating a leopard cub from its mother and placing it in a cage that was open to view on all sides. Rotting day-old chicks were found in feeding troughs, De Standaard reports.

“There is certainly a place for animal parks in Flanders,” Weyts told De Morgen. “They can play a positive role in animal protection and in education. But the welfare of the animals must be guaranteed.”

The park kept and bred too many animals, leading to shortages of space. Despite numerous fines and demands for change, there was never any structural adjustment to the way the zoo operated.

The Olmense zoo is the third-largest in the region after Antwerp zoo and Planckendael, with 200,000 visitors each year and almost 1,000 animals. The Verheyen family, which operates the park, now has 60 days to lodge an appeal with the Council of State.

Photo courtesy Gazet van Antwerpen