Friends suspected of attacking giraffe and tiger at zoo ‘ask for protection’

A group of friends suspected of breaking into a zoo and attacking the animals have asked for police protection, according to reports.

The friends, who all reportedly live within a few miles of Marwell Zoo, near Winchester, Hants, received a barrage of online abuse after being named.

They were arrested after videos showed a tiger being kicked and a can being thrown at a giraffe’s head were shared on social media.

The four people, all aged 22, and a 20-year-old told police they now feared reprisals.

One allegedly collected the others in their car after the break in but wasn’t otherwise involved, the newspaper claims.

It is understood extra Hampshire Police officers have been posted near their homes.

Armed response officers in night vision goggles, as well as a helicopter, were among the units deployed to deal with the incident after reports from staff.

The zoo is home to many endangered animals including white rhinos, Amur Leopards, Giant Anteaters, Pygmy hippos and Humboldt penguins.

The group have all since been bailed.

A zoo spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the appalling videos being circulated online showing our endangered animals in distress and we continue to assist the police with their investigation.

“Our animals are all safe and those affected are being carefully monitored and cared for by our expert animal teams.”

She went on to say the zoo – opened nearly 50 years ago – is a conservation charity which is struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic which has so far seen it lose £4million.

She thanked those who had offered messages of support, as well as donations to a JustGiving appeal which is helping to pay running costs.

A spokesman from Hampshire Constabulary previously said: “Entry had been forced to the site, and multiple buildings within the grounds, causing significant damage

“A 20-year-old man and a 22-year-old man, both from Fareham, and a 22-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman, both from Gosport, have been arrested on suspicion of burglary.”