Disaster at Bristol Zoo! Pig eats his family for lunch, rare monkey is devoured by otters
A zoo lost some of its most endangered animals when a male warty pig ate his entire family and a rare monkey was eaten for lunch by hungry otters.
The incidents happened at Bristol Zoo in December and were shortly followed by further tragedy when three rainbow lorikeets escaped.
The zoo, which prides itself on its conservation measures, said the deaths had distressed keepers.
The most gruesome incident came after Manilla, a female Visayan warty pig was joined by her husband Elvis last year.
Staff said they hoped he would "take a shine" to her and they would "become proud parents".
But when she unexpectedly gave birth to extremely rare piglets, Elvis ate them all and then turned on his mate, who had to be put down due to her injuries.
Two weeks later, an endangered golden lion tamarind monkey escaped and fell into a pond where it became trapped and was eaten by American otters.
And just a week ago three rainbow lorikeets, usually found in Australia, escaped through a hole in their cage flew off. One is still on the loose.
The incidents were revealed by a whistleblower who claimed the deaths and escapes were avoidable.
The whistleblower said: "On the day the female gave birth to piglets, the male immediately ate them all, and then also attacked the mother by eating her rear end.
"She was so badly injured she had to be put down.
"This meant the loss of a family of rare warty pigs that could have been avoided by keeping the male separate.
"The rare lion headed golden tamarin escaped and fell into the nearby pond where it was trapped in a drainage valve, and then eaten by American otters.
"Three rainbow lorikeets escaped from their enclosure but only two were recovered. There is still one lorikeet loose somewhere in Bristol.
"If a breeding pair had escaped then Bristol may have been infested with birds."
Warty pigs - native to the Visayan Islands in the central Philippines - are so rare in the world that their numbers are unknown.
In the wild, there are two separate remaining populations on the islands of Panay and Negros. They are thought to number around 200 in total.
The species is listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature due to habitat loss, food shortages and hunting.
There was much fanfare when Manilla arrived at the zoo in July. Two months later she was joined by Elvis.
At the time, assistant curator of mammals Lynsey Bugg said: "We hope the 'King' takes a shining to Manilla and the two become proud parents in the future."
The golden-headed lion tamarin is a squirrel-sized monkey with a long golden mane. They are native to Brazil, where there are just 10,000 in the wild and they are considered endangered.
Staff said he fell into the lake surrounding its island enclosure and helpers arrived at the location too late to intervene.
Rainbow lorikeets are relatively common but capture for the pet trade is a threat to the species and three escaped from their aviary through a hole covered by vegetation.
A spokeswoman for the zoo, which has over 7,000 animals, said: "In November Manilla showed some subtle changes to her behaviour and keepers alerted our in-house vet team.
"She showed no physical signs of being pregnant and, as she had not been with a male between July and October, she was well outside the known birth window for this species.
"The birth of her litter and the subsequent incident with the male was, therefore, completely unforeseeable."
She said the incidents had been "distressing" for staff but defended the zoo, which she said had the "highest standards of animal welfare, education and conservation in Europe, as well as world-class in-house veterinary care".
She added: "We actively encourage natural animal behaviours and group dynamics.
"Our animals are also housed in natural enclosures, replicating environments they would be used to in the wild.
"As a result, on rare occasions, despite our best efforts, we are not able to prevent unfortunate and unforeseen situations from occurring."
The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums also defended the zoo.
A spokesman said: "Staff caring for these animals have been understandably distressed after these sad and unusual events.
"But we are confident that Bristol Zoo is doing everything possible to ensure that similar situations will not arise again in the future."
Chester Zoo was the first in the UK to welcome Visayan warty pigs and last August, a piglet was born to its parents Vivienne Westwood and Sid Vicious.
There are believed to be around 26 in UK zoos.