Published: 10:43, 05 April 2021
| Updated: 12:30, 05 April 2021
A safari park has reported five animals escaping from its site in as many months.
An inspection report of Port Lympne Reserve, near Hythe, revealed that a rusty-spotted cat native to India has still not returned to its enclosure after disappearing last year.
It comes after the Charity Commission opened formal inquiries into The Aspinall Foundation and Howletts Wild Animal Trust over "serious concerns about governance and financial management".
Howletts Wild Animal Trust runs Port Lympne and Howletts in Canterbury. The Aspinall Foundation runs the conservation programmes.
Both charities are being investigated separately.
It is reported that five escapees were listed in the latest informal inspection report for Port Lympne, obtained through a Freedom of Information request and reported by the Daily Mail.
On March 5, two female hog deer escaped after a fence failed. One was hurt and had to be put down.
On May 11, a South American jungle cat called a Margay climbed out of its enclosure.
A hole made by a rat led to a rusty-spotted cat escaping its enclosure on July 11.
The cat has not been recaptured, but is regularly spotted in park grounds on cameras, the park's report said.
The rusty spotted cat is one of the world’s smallest cats, roughly between 30cm and 35cm in length.
The park says it is not subject to a DWA (Dangerous Wild Animal) license and poses no threat to humans.
A spectacled bear escaped its enclosure into a private area of the reserve which the public has no access to on August 9.
The bear was returned to its enclosure within a few minutes but it was reported that a keeper didn't close a gate properly and it was tempted back with food pellets.
The keeper has been disciplined and received further training, Port Lympne said.
The park, which says it holds reintroducing animals to the wild as one of its key philosophies, said in a statement that on every occasion the relevant authorities were alerted to the escapes and escape drills take place four times a year at both parks.
There are more than 1,400 animals across both its sites – Howletts near Canterbury and Port Lympne near Hythe.
Port Lympne covers 600 acres and the last full inspection in 2019 praised its "very high standards of animal care" and "excellent" conservation work.
The trust said in a statement it has bred more than "300 tigers and twice as many African elephants as the rest of the UK combined".
It added: "It would be impossible to achieve these breeding successes without the highest standards of husbandry and this mammal breeding record is comparable to any of the top zoos in the world.
"Port Lympne Hotel and Reserve and Howletts Wild Animal Park are the world’s most successful breeders of western lowland gorillas, Javan gibbons, Javan langurs, grizzled leaf monkeys, clouded leopards and fishing cats, and amongst the most successful breeders of black rhinos, Debrazza monkeys, Francois langurs, greater bamboo lemurs, hog deer, margay, axis deer, Malayan tapirs, rusty spotted cats, snow leopards, dhole and African painted dogs in the world."
Howletts Wild Animal Trust managing director Tony Kelly said: “We are hugely proud of Howletts’ and Port Lympne’s work to protect rare and endangered species.
"As world leading breeding sanctuaries, animal safety and welfare is paramount to us and the wellbeing of our animals always comes first.
"Our ground-breaking Back to the Wild collaboration with the Aspinall Foundation has seen scores of species successfully returned to their natural habitats where they belong, achieving a fundamental aim of the organisation.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's fiancee Carrie Symonds was appointed the director of communications at The Apsinall Foundation this year.
Last month, the Charity Commission announced two new statutory inquiries, into The Aspinall Foundation and Howletts Wild Animal Trust.
The inquiry into Howletts will focus on concerns over the administration and management of the charity by trustees, and whether or not the trustees have complied with and fulfilled their duties and responsibilities under charity law.
The commission will be investigating the same concerns at Howletts, and further querying whether or not there has been any "unauthorised trustee benefit".
A commission spokesman said that the opening of an inquiry is not a finding of wrongdoing.
A spokesman for The Aspinall Foundation said that the trust is "co-operating fully" to resolve the Commission's concerns.
She added: "We remain firmly committed to our ethical and legal duties as a charitable body.
"Our Trustees will continue to work openly and transparently with the Charity Commission to ensure best practice governance and compliance.
"No further comment will be issued until the investigation is complete."