A ZOO wants to bolster its security amid fears that vandals could cut fencing and release its animals, including a dangerous African wildcat.

Ponderosa in Heckmondwike says worsening crime and anti-social behaviour in the area is behind the bid to increase security on the site - day and night.

Founder Howard Cook believes that the behaviour of "lampers" and vandals has made the rare breeds zoo particularly vulnerable.

As part of a bid to install buildings to allow round-the-clock-security on site, he says a African wildcat, a serval, which is housed in a large electrified cage, would be a "grave danger to the general public" if it's cage were to be cut.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The African serval at Ponderosa Zoo in HeckmondwikeThe African serval at Ponderosa Zoo in Heckmondwike

Mr Cook adds: "Especially vulnerable is Ponderosa Zoo, which accommodates a number of rare breeds. On past occasions fences have been cut and animals have escaped such as a wallaby. On a recent occasion, some silver foxes did escape and it required people to camp overnight at the Zoo to capture them. This acts of vandalism could seriously affect the welfare of the animals."

Of the serval he went on to say that the animal came to the Zoo after a court order against its Brighouse owner who was keeping the dangerous wildcat in a garden and without a licence. He said he feared the previous owner of the serval was also trying to get it back.

The wider Ponderosa complex includes the Zoo, a business park and a restaurant, and covers 85 acres of land in total.

READ MORE: Date set for Ponderosa Zoo in Heckmondwike to reopen

Of the security issues, he added that as well as 75 security cameras installed, they employ a firm to check security at the site in an evening, but such is the current level of vandalism and anti-social behaviour nearby, including drug dealing, they need to move to a constant security presence.

"As the area is so vast and there are not roads suitable for cars then it is impossible for the security firm to patrol the whole area even though we have requested this but the firm was not able to provide this service. As a result, we end up patrolling the entire area ourselves on foot and on quad bikes and with guard dogs.

"We owe a duty of care to our visitors and staff and for the security of the whole Park itself for 24 hour monitoring to take place and to have the ability to respond to security issues quickly and this also requires at least two people."

Up until now Mr Cook and other staff members have attempted to maintain a presence on site by staying overnight in an old portable building.

But he adds: "There is a pressing need for a permanent option for overnight security on site. There are no other available buildings or accommodation on Ponderosa Park that could provide overnight accommodation.

"I cannot stress enough how the security issues at Ponderosa Park are critical to keeping the people, animals and the place itself safe."

An application has been lodged with Kirklees Council to site two buildings on land to the side of the Zoo for security purposes.

In addition a third building would be used as a workshop for the zoo engineering equipment and to help rehabilitate vulnerable people as part of the respite centre.