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The Bonny Bonny Banks


drumkinnon tower balloch


Animal Concern is campaigning to stop a new zoo being opened in Scotland. John Robins explains what the campaign is about:

If the people in charge of Scotland's new National Park went to America to see how things are done they made a mistake. Instead of visiting Yellowstone or Yosemite they must have gone to Disneyland or Universal Studios. That's why Loch Lomond is being exploited as a commercial theme park instead of protected as a national conservation area. Park bosses would have been better going to Jellystone and taking advice from Yogi and Boo Boo.

Believe it or not the “showpiece” centre of the new National Park is a concrete castle and a shopping mall (complete with Spanish tapas bar and a store selling pate de foie gras) built right on the once bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

Despite being constructed using public grants and getting loads of tax back as a registered charity, Drumkinnon Tower and Lomond Shores shopping complex is losing money. A new owner has been found for the Tower - Merlin Entertainments Group.  Merlin run Sea Life Centres and intend building a "Fresh Water Life Centre" at Drumkinnon Tower.

Star attractions are going to be a family of otters. Merlin have stated: "The species of otter we would be working with is not native to the UK. It looks the same but is not nocturnal and lives in a family group." The National Park authority have already granted Merlin permission to make alterations to the front of the Tower along the artificial shoreline so the alien otters can get into their artificial holt inside the artificial castle.

That's the first time I've heard our native otters being described as nocturnal. They are shy of humans but I have seen them several times in the wild and, with my eyesight, that had to be during the day in good sunlight. What Merlin are talking about are otters bred at another of their attractions and humanised so they have lost their fear of people. As for them living in family groups, all young otters stay with their mother for one to two years and then disperse to find territories of their own. If they are not dispersed they will fight.

Drumkinnon Tower would be a dumping ground for surplus otters from another "attraction". In two or three years Drumkinnon would be looking for new homes for more of these inbred non-native otters which are unsuitable for release into the wild.

To build the rest of the fresh water aquarium deep piles would have to be driven into the shore subjecting local wildlife to yet more disturbance. Then they would catch some trout, salmon, pike and perch and put them in the tanks for folk to gawp at before they nip upstairs for a fish supper in the cafe-bar. 

There are loads of innovative ways people could see and learn about the real fauna of Loch Lomond without disturbing wild animals or putting them in cages and tanks. Lomond and the Trossachs National Park should be looking to the future instead of adopting cheap Victorian gimmicks to pull in day trippers to a tacky amusement park.

CALL TO ACTION: Please write to Environmental Services, West Dunbartonshire Council, Council Offices, Clydebank G81 1TG (e-mail: environmental-health@west-dunbarton.gov.uk) and lodge your objection to any application for a Zoo License for Drumkinnon Tower, Balloch.

Write to Bill Dalrymple, Chief Exective, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, National Park Head Quarters, The Old Station, Balloch Road, Balloch G83 8BF asking the National Park authority not to co-operate with any live animal attraction at Drumkinnon Tower. (info@lochlomond-trossachs.org).

Write to Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd, 3 Market Close, Poole BH15 1NQ. Tell them you will boycott Loch Lomond Shores if they go ahead with their zoo.

Finally please write to The Manager, Jenners, Loch Lomond Shores, Ben Lomond Way, Balloch, Dunbartonshire G83 8QL and ask them to stop selling tins of paté de foie gras.