THREE men are in custody today following reports that intruders broke into a Hampshire zoo and abused the animals.

Police were called to Marwell Zoo following reports that a group had broken in causing damage and were "throwing things" at the animals.

Officers were called at 11.40pm on Monday after a member of the public saw footage of people breaking into the site on social media. 

Entry had been forced to the site, and multiple buildings within the grounds, causing significant damage. 

Multiple police units were deployed to the incident, including police armed response (ARV) officers, a dog unit and a helicopter.

A 20-year-old man and a 22-year-old man, both from Fareham, and a 22-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman, both from Gosport, have been arrested on suspicion of burglary.

A Hampshire Police spokesperson said: "Three males in their early 20s from Gosport are in Police Custody on suspicion of Burglary today following reports that intruders had broken into Marwell Zoo causing damage to the Zoo premises and were throwing things at the animals.

"Multiple Police units were deployed to the incident, including police ARV officers, a dog unit and a helicopter.

"[An] image was taken by an ARV officer using Night Vision during the Police search of Marwell and shows one of the resident Marwell Cheetahs who was keeping a wary eye on the Police Dog.

"Police are aware that video and images of some of the animal abuse was shared via Social Media, if you have any information in relation to this, please contact Hampshire Constabulary on 101, quoting reference 44210057948."

Marwell Wildlife’s Chief Executive James Cretney, said: “We are deeply saddened that we were targeted in a mindless burglary last night.

"Police were called after a member of the public saw footage of people breaking into the zoo on social media. They also reported that the suspects had been throwing items at our animals.

"Entry was forced to the site and buildings within our grounds, causing significant damage.

“We are very thankful that our animals are all safe and our expert teams are on site monitoring their wellbeing and caring for them to the highest standard.

"We’re extremely grateful to the member of the public who alerted the police and we thank the officers for their hard work as we assist them in the investigation.

“Marwell is a conservation charity and this has happened at a time we are facing the toughest challenge in our nearly 50 year history after losing more than £4 million in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are humbled by the messages of support from our community and the generosity of those who have donated to our JustGiving fundraising appeal, which is helping us to care for our animals during this unsettling time.”