It's time for Lagoon to stop caging wild animals

Sunday , May 08, 2016 - 6:30 AM14 comments

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus found sanctuary for its elephants.

SeaWorld ended its orca breeding program.

Now it’s time for Lagoon to stop caging its exotic animals.

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Lagoon, a theme park in Farmington, opened a ride in 1967 called Animaland Train. Its successor is the Wild Kingdom Train, which chugs through a lagoon meant to evoke Africa.

Here’s how Lagoon’s website describes it:

“The steam train travels with guests around the lagoon, treating them to spectacular views and glimpses of exotic animals. With animals like Siberian tigers, a golden eagle, zebras, camels and African lions, the Wild Kingdom Train gives an experience unlike most amusement park train rides.”

That’s the problem — the glimpses of exotic animals. Writing for the Standard-Examiner in August 2015, TX. correspondent Ceneca Solis reported seeing Siberian tigers, bears, Canadian lynx and lions “in lonely enclosures.”

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Most animals, including the big cats, live in small wire and concrete cages. Lagoon points out that the enclosures “meet or exceed” U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements, but that’s missing the point, as Solis recognized.

“The enclosures at Lagoon are USDA approved, but what kind of animal wants to live in a space without grass?” she wrote.

“The lions are kept in metal cages at Lagoon. There is no fake grass or even real grass to keep them content. A horrifying thought to think about is has this king of the jungle ever had the chance to explore through the grass? Have the lions and lionesses ever felt anything on the pads of their feet other than cool cement?”

In a letter to Solis, Lagoon Corp. President David Freed said the animals came from “many, many” places. Some were born there, he wrote. Some had been pets; others had been owned illegally.

No matter how they got there, Lagoon isn’t an animal sanctuary; it’s an amusement park. It built the Wild Kingdom Train to entertain paying guests, not to preserve endangered species.

Wildlife deserves to be treated with respect, as Ringling Bros. and SeaWorld learned. Lagoon, however, persists in treating animals as cheap entertainment.

This is not 1967. We know better now — or at least we should.

Find them sanctuary. Commit to building them modern habitats reflecting their natural environments.

But stop keeping wild animals in cages at Lagoon.

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