Edinburgh Zoo’s animal lovers are sending out an SOS – to save their “endangered” hilltop safari bus.
The vehicle, the last of a fleet of three, was used by the young and elderly alike to take visitors up the steepest hill in the site, allowing them to see many of the animals along the way with minimal exertion.
But now the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the charity which owns and manages the zoo, has scrapped the free service and replaced it with a mobility vehicle, which can only be used by those who struggle to get around the attraction.
Regular visitors have been left “outraged” and have flocked to sign an online petition in the hope of seeing the bus, which can carry 14 passengers – ten more than the new service – reinstated.
The petition, named Edinburgh Zoo, SOS – Save Our Safari, has been instigated by Christopher Welsh, who has been a safari driver at the zoo for the last two years until he left his post this week.
Mr Welsh, 36, said: “I just feel for the people that have got small kids crying and adults that are upset. Going to the zoo should be inclusive and about having fun.
“They have got enough sponsorships, so we would have thought people would be biting their hand off to keep it going. They have got the money so I don’t understand why this is happening.”
Zoo chiefs insisted the safari bus had only served a very small percentage of its visitors, but that explanation didn’t appease animal lover Amanda Gliddon, 33, of Corstorphine, a regular user of the bus and a member of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland all her life.
She said: “I like to think I’m fit but there are times I have had to use the bus – it’s a struggle to walk up the hill.
“I think it might put some people off and it certainly made me a bit disillusioned with the zoo, especially knowing they make all this money off the back of the pandas and then claim they cannot afford to run a small bus service.”
Zoo managing director Barbara Smith said: “We are always keen to offer our visitors the best experience possible, but the safari bus in its current format simply did not do this.
“As well as only being able to carry 14 visitors per trip, the vehicle itself was obsolete and combined with maintenance and staff costs it was totally inefficient.”