VIiscount of Weymouth Ceawlin Thynn has admitted that there were issues with the lion-breeding policy at Longleat Safari.

He said the problems came to light after he took over as acting chief executive when CEO David Bradley mysteriously left in October last year.

Ceawlin says he will remain as executive chairman of the park even though he appointed Bob Montgomery as CEO last week. Mr Montgomery, who has many years experience in the safari park industry, has been assisting Lord Bath’s son through the transition period.

The Viscount told the Mail on Sunday that the rapid expansion of the lion population at Longleat, which created problems of in-breeding and overcrowding, was “the main reason” for the departure of Mr Bradley.

Longleat has since had to defend its animal welfare policy, after it was revealed at the beginning of February that six lions had been put down after Christmas.

Ceawlin said: “I take the issue of animal welfare very seriously. Since assuming executive authority and having been made aware of the issues we faced, I took swift remedial action.”

He said that a further five lions were euthanised in 2009. Three were put down because they were fatally wounded, while two were put down because of inbreeding.

However, Ceawlin said he will now take a more hands-on role at the park, confirming that contraception is now widely used and plans are in place for a new lion enclosure.

A statement released by Longleat said: “We would like to reassure visitors the health and welfare of our animals is of paramount importance and our staff work tirelessly to ensure these high standards are consistently met.”