Sun | Jul 3, 2022

Jamaica Zoo has no attraction permit to operate – TPDCo

Published:Wednesday | May 25, 2022 | 12:07 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter
A lion glares at Jamaica Zoo in Lacovia, St Elizabeth.
A lion glares at Jamaica Zoo in Lacovia, St Elizabeth.

Jamaica Zoo, where a lion recently ripped off the finger of a taunting employee, does not have a licence to operate as an attraction, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) has confirmed. In fact, the state agency said that zoo owner Paul...

Jamaica Zoo, where a lion recently ripped off the finger of a taunting employee, does not have a licence to operate as an attraction, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) has confirmed.

In fact, the state agency said that zoo owner Paul Fearon, who is listed as one of three directors according to Companies Office of Jamaica records, was never in receipt of an attraction permit to operate.

Several attempts by The Gleaner since Sunday to contact Fearon have been unsuccessful.

The discovery means that the zoo, located in Lacovia, St Elizabeth, has violated Section 23(a) of the Tourism Board Act that stipulates that no person shall operate a tourism enterprise unless that person is a holder of a licence.

Section 24(4) of the act also stipulates that anyone who operates a tourism enterprise in contravention of Section 23(a) shall be guilty of an offence and is liable for conviction in the Resident Magistrate’s Court to a fine not exceeding $20,000.

It said in default of payment, the person shall be imprisoned for a term not exceeding two years.

The law said if the breach continues after conviction, the person shall be guilty of a continuing offence and, in respect of each day during which such offence continues, shall be liable to a fine not exceeding $500.

In an emailed response to Gleaner queries, TPDCo said that it has, over the years, sought to work closely with the operators of Jamaica Zoo in a bid to have them obtain a Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) attraction licence, without success.

“They have not been able to meet the regulatory requirements of set standards in public health, fire safety, security, and public liability insurance,” TPDCo said.

It said Jamaica Zoo first applied to TPDCo for a JTB attraction licence in November 2020 – more than a decade after it was incorporated in July 2009.

TPDCo said that the application was reviewed and there were several discrepancies and missing documents.

“Verbal dialogue was had with the respective staff at TPDCo to include the product quality officer assigned to the entity. Contact was made on several occasions regarding outstanding documents, to no avail. TPDCo indicated that the application would be returned by June 2, 2021, if no updates were provided,” TPDCo told The Gleaner.

It said with no further update forthcoming, the application was packaged and returned on July 11, 2021, to Jamaica Zoo.

TPDCo said since that time, it has not received any further JTB attraction application from Fearon regarding Jamaica Zoo.

The Companies Office of Jamaica lists Jamaica Zoo’s core activity as dog- and cat-grooming supplies and services.

On Monday, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) said that the zoo is in possession of two environmental permits under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act.

The permits include operation of a zoo and importation and introduction of species of flora and fauna or other biological organisms.

The zoo also has a wildlife exemption certificate issued under the Wild Life Protection Act to keep several protected species, including protected birds.

However, NEPA said that there were areas of non-compliance with the permits issued.

It said issues of animal health and animal welfare were also identified.

“A report on the findings is being prepared for discussion amongst the visiting team to determine the final action to be taken,” NEPA said.

On Monday, Pamela Lawson, managing director of the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA), criticised the culture of provocation at Jamaica Zoo as “reckless endangerment” after the worker’s finger was bitten off by the lion.

In a video that went viral at the weekend, the worker, who has been identified as Ricardo Jones by the zoo’s management, was seen goading the caged lion before sticking his finger inside the corner of the animal’s mouth.

The worker repeatedly withdraws and inserts his finger for a short spell before the lion eventually clamped down on the digit.

The man was recorded by patrons attempting to wrest his finger from the animal’s mouth before finally breaking free.

In a statement on Tuesday, Jamaica Zoo said Jones “is recovering from what – in light of the circumstances – can be described as relatively minor injuries”.