Animals seriously injured at wildlife park by drivers doing burnouts outside

Animals at Christchurch’s Orana Wildlife Park have been seriously injured by drivers doing skids and burnouts outside the zoo at night.

The animals were inside the zoo when they were hurt, police said on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the zoo said some of the animals had suffered severe abrasions and bruising after getting spooked by the noise and running into fences.

Others were left severely stressed, which could affect their breeding in upcoming seasons.

The animals involved were “farmyard animals”, the zoo said, though a spokesperson refused to identify any species.

Officers have identified 16 vehicles thought to be involved and have impounded 10, in an investigation dubbed Operation Gumtree.

A spokesperson said police learned a month ago that a number of animals at the wildlife park, on McLeans Island Rd in Harewood, had been “adversely impacted” by drivers doing burnouts and skids outside the zoo.

“The driving behaviour has resulted in serious injuries and harm to some animals, as well as causing significant stress to staff at the park.”

The drivers’ behaviour also posed an extreme fire risk to the park, which police said could “potentially have devastating effects”.

Police are now trying to find the remaining six cars involved.

“Some of the vehicles have been identified as committing multiple offences – either on the same night or over several nights,” the spokesperson said.

Sergeant Luke Vaughan, head of the anti-social road user team, said Operation Gumtree had had a good result.

The alleged offenders would face charges of sustained loss of traction, which carried a six-month disqualification penalty, or failing to provide information if the registered car owner did not disclose the driver’s identity.

Where in the past boy-racing around Christchurch’s four avenues was a key city issue, Vaughan said it was now a predominantly suburban and rural issue.