Sick vandals target animals at children's farm

Wharfedale Observer: (6824303) Jim Wainhouse at the Esholt farm (6824303) Jim Wainhouse at the Esholt farm

Animals have been killed and tortured and a 70-year-old tortoise has been stolen in a sick spate of attacks at a children's farm.

Vandals left a trail of destruction in their wake when they struck at St Leonard’s Farm Park, Esholt, killing, stealing or releasing animals including meerkats, cockatiels, and a deer.

Denise Wainhouse, who has run the popular children’s attraction with husband Jim for 20 years, said: "They have broken in and run amok, wantonly hurting animals – torture and murder have taken place here.

"It started last Thursday when our tortoise Samantha, who we’ve had for 15 years, disappeared from her pen, and then whoever was responsible kept coming back at different times over the weekend wreaking havoc.

"They broke down fences and left a trail of destruction on their way.

"Once inside they used two exotic mice as live bait to entice the meerkats, who ate them.

"And while the three meerkat brothers were distracted they grabbed two of them and took them."

Other victims taken or vanished included two cockatiels, a muntjac deer and a rat.

Desperate for help, the farm park appealed to villagers to join in the hunt and the missing meerkat brothers were discovered roaming Esholt.

"A lovely local woman found two in a car park in a very distressed state and then my son and I caught another in a terrible condition outside the pub," Mrs Wainhouse said.

More evidence of the raiders’ cruelty emerged when a dumped sports bag revealed a fatally-wounded cockatiel.

"The poor thing’s tail feathers had been pulled out. It was in a disgraceful state and sadly it died soon afterwards," Mrs Wainhouse said.

Three rheas who had been sitting on eggs in an adjoining field were also affected. "Their eggs were taken and smashed in the meerkat enclosure, and we know they were close to hatching because we saw the chicks’ little bodies," Mrs Wainhouse said.

"All of our animals are now safe but they have had a terribly traumatic ordeal.

"These are defenceless animals which have been attacked by feral people.

"One could lose faith in humanity, but the support from the local community has been so wonderful."

St Leonard’s Farm Park runs pre-booked visits for children and schools and Mrs Wainhouse said these would be unaffected by the recent incidents.

The search is still on for the other cockatiel, Paddy, who is grey and green with yellow cheeks, and also for Samantha the tortoise.

Sergeant James Firth, of the Shipley Neighbourhood Area Team, said: "These incidents have clearly been upsetting for all concerned and we are keen to hear from anyone with information on who might be responsible.

"We would also appeal to anyone who witnessed any suspicious activity in the Chapel Lane area of Esholt between last Thursday and Sunday to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111."

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