Lion Man in row with mother over wildlife park

The man who gained world-wide fame through a television series about wild animals is no longer in control of the Zion Wildlife Gardens in Whangarei.

Lion Man Craig Busch has been in dispute with his mother, Patricia Busch, who is also park's managing director, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).

It was believed Mr Busch no longer controlled the park after details of a MAF investigation were made public, The New Zealand Herald reported today.

MAF documents were released to TVNZ under the Official Information Act and expressed concern that animals were kept in crowded, insanitary conditions.

Inspectors at one stage considered having 40 big cats put down. They were also concerned about barriers after a damaged fence was not fixed for a day and a half, and the keeping of lions and tigers in the same enclosure.

Improvements had since been made at the park which gained worldwide fame through the TV series The Lion Man, the newspaper said.

MAF investigations manager Greg Reid said the immediate animal welfare issues at the park had been addressed but one investigation was continuing although he would not reveal details.

He said he was satisfied "domestic or business issues" were not affecting animal welfare or public safety.

Mrs Busch, said she was pleased concerns MAF had were in the past apart from one still being addressed.

"They never said and we don't believe they were contemplating putting animals down," she told the newspaper.

Young lions and tigers were kept together and the damage to a boundary fence caused by a storm last winter was fixed as soon as it was found.

It is believed Mrs Busch and her son Craig were in a civil dispute over management of the park which was to be heard in court next week.

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