Ark. Wilderness Safari under investigation for alleged animal neglect

GENTRY, Ark. (KTHV) – The Wild Wilderness Drive Through Safari in Gentry is under investigation after a federal agency filed a complaint alleging the business neglected to properly care for the animals, resulting in the death of one of their lions.

CBS affiliate 5NEWS reports that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, filed the complaint on January 10. The allegations of mistreatment or neglect span from January 2012 to November 2016.

The complaint alleges that a juvenile lion died in February 2013 after it strangled itself on a collar that was around its neck. The complaint states that safari members violated regulations by failing to handle the animals as carefully as possible.

Other issues outlined in the complaint includes animals having inadequate, unsafe or dirty shelters; inadequate or unsafe fencing separating animals from the public; allowing the public to interact with animals unsupervised; and animals having insufficient veterinary care.

In January 2014, several primates were exposed to cold conditions, resulting in a spider monkey losing several digits from frostbite on its hands and feet, according to the APHIS complaint. Some animals were reportedly left in an unheated outdoor enclosure when the temperature was 34 degrees and it was snowing and sleeting.

In October of that year, there was not a sufficient barrier or distance between the public and a lion, and the safari allowed a park visitor to have direct contact with a lion.

The complaint also outlines several injuries that animals sustained, including an incident in January 2014 where an Olive baboon had a bent tail, which the baboon eventually chewed off.

In November 2016, the APHIS reported that certain lion enclosures didn't have an adequate amount of shade, as the enclosures had no shade trees and only a tarp, which didn't provide shade for most of the day.

Leon Wilmoth, a manager at the safari said the allegations were false and that they face some type of opposition like this as they try to renew their USDA license every year. To read more, click here

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