Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Zoo reviews security after Shetland ponies released during break-in

By Linda Stewart

Belfast Zoo is reviewing security after youths broke in at night and freed three Shetland ponies.

Two men, aged 17 and 18, were bailed pending further police inquiries last night after they were arrested for burglary and criminal damage.

The pair were arrested at around 7.30pm on Monday.

Twitter messages circulating on Monday night suggested that a lion or giraffe was released but this proved to be incorrect.

Zoo manager Mark Challis last night reassured visitors that the ponies — Rosie, Billy and Peaches — were unharmed after four youths released them from a locked paddock in the old zoo where they had been grazing.

The animals were later captured in the area of Floral Hall and the youths were apprehended shortly after breaking in.

“This morning the ponies were being spoiled rotten by the keepers, with extra feed and extra grooming,” Mr Challis said. “It’s fairly disturbing that anyone would want to come into the zoo and release anything.”

The burglars managed to unlock a padlocked gate, he said.

“Security is pretty good around the zoo and it's appropriate to the species we're looking after. The lions and tigers and indeed giraffes were all safely locked up,” he said.

“Thankfully instances of break-ins and release of animals are very rare. We think it was probably four local youths who broke into the zoo to mess around.”

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