Lowry Park Zoo officials’ links to accreditation group raise questions

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Lowry Park Zoo officials' links to accreditation group raise questions

By Alexandra Zayas, Times Staff Writer
In print: Saturday, September 20, 2008

TAMPA — The list includes an amusement park in Maine where an elephant plays the harmonica and a breeder in Kansas who sold exotic birds to a pet shop.

There's a drive-through safari park in North Carolina where zebras can stick their heads into your car. And an animal dealer in Texas that bought a Web domain titled ExoticsLiquidators.com.

None of those facilities are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, known for years as the zoological standard.

But they are accredited by a newer group — the Zoological Association of America.

Its chairman: Larry Killmar, director of collections at Lowry Park Zoo. Its secretary: zoo president Lex Salisbury, who spent the past week answering questions from Tampa officials about dealings between his private, for-profit exotic animal park and the taxpayer-funded zoo.

Its mailing address: an office it rents at Lowry Park Zoo.

Other respected zoos belong to the ZAA, and some state governments recognize the association.

But some argue that the organization, whose mission statement includes "protect and defend the right to own animals," casts far too wide a net.

• • •

Salisbury, who lives at his exotic animal ranch in Dade City, says some people just don't understand his lifestyle. Why wake up at 6:30 a.m. every day to feed a giraffe?

Salisbury believes that private facilities such as his are the future of animal conservation and can help public zoos deal with space constraints and stretched budgets.

The ZAA exists to let people know that even though some of these facilities aren't zoos, they're still reputable and agree to certain standards of animal care, he said.

The association's Web site lists 46 facilities that have been inspected and received accreditation. Only about a dozen also are accredited by the more mainstream AZA.

The others include everything from exotic animal breeders and import/exporters to private sanctuaries and amusement parks.

Killmar says he doesn't see a problem with operating an accrediting agency out of a Lowry Park office or with the zoo's belonging to an organization that acts as a "voice in Washington" for some of those other facilities.

They share a common goal, he said: "It's about the animals."

• • •

In 2007, the Internal Revenue Service released an investigation into a ZAA-accredited facility in Kansas called El Rancho Exotica.

The IRS said the ranch was a hobby, not a business, and that its owners don't have professional animal care credentials.

It reported that the owners purchased animals without receiving health information about them, as well as breeds that weren't used to the Kansas climate and died. Some of their exotic birds ended up in a pet shop.

The investigation included events from 1989 to 2001. When asked whether anything about the facility had changed since her ZAA accreditation, owner Margaret Knudsen said it never had problems to begin with.

Because Kansas recognizes the association's stamp of approval, she is exempt from restrictions that other exotic animal owners face.

Richard Farinato, a captive wildlife expert with the Humane Society, has served as assistant director of two zoos.

"There's a world of difference between a professionally run zoo and anything else where people are keeping exotic animals — in attitude, philosophy, approach, management and reason for keeping an animal," he said.

In most respects, the AZA has tougher standards than its Lowry-based counterpart. It has financial reserve requirements that limit membership mostly to professional zoos and large private facilities. The ZAA accredits smaller, less-endowed organizations.

The AZA requires its members to be open to the public. Salisbury's exotic animal park, Safari Wild, is not yet open but already is accredited by the ZAA.

The AZA requires that animals moved from an AZA facility go somewhere with high standards of animal welfare. The ZAA's mission statement includes the same conservation goal.

But a ZAA-accredited facility, Animal Source Texas Inc., which imports and exports exotic animals, bought a Web domain titled ExoticsLiquidators.com that allowed non-accredited breeders to post advertisements.

Some other ZAA-accredited facilities exhibit their animals in ways that are frowned upon by the AZA.

At safari drive-through Lazy 5 Ranch in North Carolina, animals are allowed to put their heads into the car windows of guests. The AZA would view that as a dangerous practice, said spokesman Steven Feldman.

At York's Wild Kingdom in Maine, guests can ride elephants for $8. The AZA strongly discourages elephant rides for safety reasons and because they detract from the dignity of the animal. The ZAA requires its authorization to permit elephant rides.

• • •

Killmar, the ZAA chairman and Lowry's director of collections, said the 3-year-old accrediting organization has significant standards and that his office will investigate complaints against its facilities, as long as they're not made anonymously.

Killmar said the ZAA is recognized by legislatures in Kansas, Michigan and California, and is working with Florida.

The goal, Killmar said, is recognition in all 50 states.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.


by Jeff Sep 20, 2008 9:53 PM
Our compliments to the St.Petersburg Times for continuing to empower the public regarding this important local as well as worldwide issue. Knowledge is Empowering Warmest Regards, Jeff Kremer Tampa's Zoo Advocates www.TampasZooAdvocates.co

One of the ZAOA members is Jungle Island

Jungle Island: Family Fun | Outdoor Events | South Florida

Jungle Island 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail Miami, Florida 33132. Ph-305.400.7000 Fax-305.400.7291. Treetop Ballroom

On the ZAOA site they list legislation, but are careful not to state why it is listed.  If you know what they are promoting, then you know why they are alerting each other to pending legislation that will stop them in their tracks.  They refer to the TRAFFIC report, which was presented to the International Tiger Coalition, of which Big Cat Rescue is a member.  There are appx. 40 organizations such as World Wildlife Fund, Save the Tiger Fund, etc. who are members.  At our most recent conference call we decided that the US issue of over breeding tigers was a much bigger problem than even the report showed because one of the biggest breeders was not thoroughly investigated. 

Bhagavan Antle who calls himself Doc Antle operates out of ZAOA's Jungle Island.  Roger Figg, now dead, had been a mole in his circle who forwarded a chat to me where he said Antle had told him that he needed to breed or buy 200 baby tigers per year to stock his photo booth operations across the country.

When USDA began enforcing a policy to not allow contact with adult tigers, Roger Figg told me that Antle sued USDA saying they were costing him half a million a year in lost revenue.  He is often referred to as the primary problem when it comes to the overbreeding and discarding of tigers.  The problem is that they can't prove it and even if they did, he isn't breaking any law by breeding, using and discarding or even killing the cats.  Zoos do it all the time.

Antle has 2 facilities:  T.I.G.E.R.S. in Myrtle Beach, SC and Jungle Island FKA Parrot Jungle in Miami, FL.

When other facilities have been shut down, such as Darryl Atkinson's Horseshoe Creek in Davenport, FL they just claim to join Antle's band of traveling photo booth operators.  When I contacted Horseshoe Creek a volunteer there told me that none of the cats needed rescue because they were all going with Atkinson to work for Antle. 

A recent, also under cover, visitor to T.I.G.E.R.S. (tigerfriends.com) in Myrtle Beach said she wasn't allowed to see behind the scenes, but that workers there said that they had 75-100 tigers who were not visible to the public.  Another recent complaint about a photo booth that came in from Ohio reported that the volunteers at a baby tiger photo booth said their tigers came from somewhere else and went somewhere else, but they didn't know who the people were on either end.  They only use them as cubs and then pass them on.

After TRAFFIC's report came out, we picked up the phone and called all of the accredited sanctuaries and only 117 tigers, of the estimate 5,000+, are in legitimate sanctuaries.  Accredited zoos list their tigers with ISIS, so that is publicly accessible and wouldn't account for more than a couple hundred.  The rest of these cats are not on anyone's radar and are not pure bred so breeding them will never help the species.

More than you ever wanted to know about the white tiger fraud can be found here: http://bigcatrescue.org/cats/wild/white_tigers.htm

Why we do not belong to ZAOA or AZA. 
AZA has the highest standards for zoos, but are in the zoo business.  They made it clear that we would never be approved as long as we were against the idea of animals in zoos.  Our mission is no more exotic cats in cages, so we just don't fit.  ZAOA keeps sending me brochures asking us to become one of their members (why is a mystery to me) and they state that their mission is promote zoos.  We do not promote zoos and believe that they are an antiquated remnant of an era past. 

None of their justifications for existence hold up to the common sense test. 
They claim to be an ark for the future, but we have the technology to repopulate via frozen specimens should that day of Nirvana ever come.  They claim to raise awareness for conservation, but as long as someone can drive 10 miles to see a tiger, they aren't going to worry about protecting their habitat half a world away.  Tigers are the perfect example of that wrong-headed thinking.  No cat is more widely exhibited in zoos, and they will be gone in the wild in less than 5 years if we don't stop the lucrative tiger trade. 

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

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:


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