Daniel Ruth Tells It Like It Is at Lowry Park
Safari Wild's Snakes May Be Running Show
The Tampa Tribune
Published: August 28, 2008
Maybe it's a matter of just bad timing, but invariably when I visit the zoo, the critters are either pacing back and forth, reclining in a stupor, or hiding behind a rock.
OK, there was that one time many years ago when the lads were quite young and we took them to Lowry Park only to come upon two giant turtles making whoopee – very, very, very slowly. This was not exactly a "9 1/2 Weeks" of the animal kingdom moment.
Frankly, it would be interesting to see a lion eating a gazelle, but really, isn't that what public television is for?
So I was a bit flummoxed recently when Tampa's answer to Marlin Perkins, Lowry Park President Lex Salisbury, argued Safari Wild, a for-profit business he is developing in Polk County, would be an ideal place for the zoo animals to have a place to go on vacation.
Salisbury reasoned the Lowry Park beasts would be able to spend time at Safari Wild to chill out from the rigors of being on display at the zoo.
Huh? A warthog needs time off? What should we call this? A Club Med for pygmy hippos? Who knew that standing still all day long, staring off into space was so – demanding?
But those are the least of the questions vexing Salisbury amid disclosures Lowry Park employees have been put upon to help the zoo chief develop his private, for-profit business. Something stinks here and it's not the elephant pit.
E-mail between Lowry Park Zoo workers and associates of Salisbury indicate employees have assisted in scheduling meetings, arranging tours of Safari Wild for Polk County officials and coordinating promotional events hyping the private animal enclave.
Lowry Park receives millions of dollars in funding from the city and the county. Of its $13.5 million annual budget, Salisbury earns $271,000 to run the place. By contrast, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio makes $150,000 and she has even more snakes to deal with.
Sloths No. 1!
Now it is certainly true that under Salisbury's leadership, Lowry Park has become one of the crown jewels of the community, with a national reputation for excellence among the zoological community, which might suggest our sloths do a better job of sleeping away the day than any other sloths in captivity.
Hey, thanks a bunch, Lex.
But for all of Salisbury's accomplishments on behalf of the zoo, that still doesn't entitle him to use its work force to assist his entrepreneurial ambitions.
If Salisbury, along with his Safari Wild partner, St. Petersburg veterinarian Stephen Wehrmann, had the financial wherewithal to purchase the Polk County land, as well as the various animals to populate the park, then surely they can hire secretaries and office personnel to handle their private, for-profit business affairs.
And if you think this is making a mountain out of a mole hill, imagine what the reaction would be if Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson, or Iorio, or a county commissioner got caught engaging in the same behavior as Salisbury.
Why, it would be a kerfuffle wild, is what it would be.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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