Mortality and Mismanagement at Lion Country Safari

USDA Cites Facility for Apparent Violations of Federal Law

In zoos with barren, restrictive, cement enclosures and prison-like bars, exotic wildlife on exhibit lead bleak lives. Keeping these animals in a different manner—with lots of room, companionship and enrichment to enable them to exhibit their rich behavioral repertoire—should represent a huge leap forward for them. Sadly, this does not appear to be the case at the drive-through commercial exhibit, Lion Country Safari (LCS), in Loxahatchee, Florida.

According to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection reports, there have been extensive apparent violations of the minimum requirements for animal care under the federal Animal Welfare Act. Mortality reports maintained by the facility and written up by USDA described:

At least 3 animals who died of "blunt trauma" after "apparently being hit by cars;

An adult blackbuck who died after his head was caught "in a hay rack;

A zebra who suffered from a severely lame hoof for a week, and when an attempt was made to catch her "for treatment, she ran into a canal and drowned;

Deaths of Dall's sheep, aoudad, waterbuck, nilgai, and blackbuck from gore wounds because of conflicts with other animals housed with them.

The zoo plans to spend $2.5 million in September to improve and expand the facilities for the visitors, but it is the animals who are maintained there that are in need of attention. Since at least 1987, LCS has been promising USDA that it would construct a building for the separation and restraint of the free-ranging chimpanzees to allow for management and veterinary treatment. Construction hasn't even been initiated. LCS needs to hire and train sufficient employees to observe the public while they are driving through the park to guarantee the protection of the animals and the people. The elephants and the chimpanzees are in need of sufficient shelter from inclement weather. Based on these problems and others cited by USDA, it would appear that greater oversight of and provision for the well-being of the animals is needed. We hope LCS will take heed.