Monday, 30 April 2012

Lion Man warned ministers of cat danger

Government ministers and departments were warned a tragedy was "inevitable" at a Northland big cat reserve – shortly before a handler was mauled to death.
A three-day coronial inquiry starts in Whangarei on June 12, more than three years after Dalu Mncube, 26, was killed in an enclosure at Zion Wildlife Gardens by Abu, a white tiger.
At the time, park founder Craig "Lion Man" Busch was in a legal battle for control of Zion after being dismissed by his mother, Patricia, in 2008.
The park has since been renamed the Kingdom of Zion and Busch has been rehired by its new management.
The Sunday Star-Times can reveal Busch sent a series of warnings to officials – including one three weeks before Mncube's death – saying it was a matter of time before "someone gets badly hurt or killed".
The warnings were sent to then Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson and David Carter, then minister for agriculture, biosecurity and forestry, the Department of Labour and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
On May 9, 2009, Busch wrote of staff taking "dangerous shortcuts".
"A cavalier attitude to health and safety prevails," he wrote. "A serious or fatal accident is inevitable if this is allowed to continue."

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