When you visit Lagoon, you expect to find anything related to an amusement park: The sound of giddy screams floating around in the summer crisp air. The constant movement, whether it be the flutters of passing people or the mechanical motions from the rides.

But here at Lagoon is also a train ride. A different scene from the thrilling roller coasters, a more calm ride called The Wild Kingdom Train.

This train ride — which features a small zoo of various animals — has been around since 1975 and has recently been the target of animal protest groups who are concerned about living conditions for the animals and want them released to a sanctuary.

Even before the train came along, animals had been featured at the park as far back as the 1900s. The train is one of Lagoon's Top 10 rides each season, according to a letter written by David W. Freed, president of the Lagoon Corporation.

I’ve been wondering about these animals at the train ride and so I sent Lagoon an email with several of my questions. Freed replied with a letter and here’s what he had to say:

Where do the animals come from?

The animals come from all sorts of different sources: Some animals were born there; others are movie animals who became too aggressive, privately-owned animals that grew too large to be pets, animals that belonged to concessionaires who used them for business until they became too large, confiscated animals held illegally without proper permits, injured and rehabilitated, non-releasable raptors, and many, many more other sources.

How often do the animals receive checkups?

Regular veterinarian visits are part of the agenda including on-site visits at least once a month for all animals, and more often as necessary. Lagoon works with a number of veterinarians, including one that is actually a Lagoon employee.

How big are the enclosures for each animal? What do the animals diets consist of?

The animal enclosures are varied. However, all meet or exceed the requirements set forth in the Animal Welfare Act enforced by the USDA. The animals are fed planned diets consistent with their nutritional requirements. For example, the coatimundis really enjoy meal worms and nightcrawlers which we buy by the thousand each week. You may be sure that the animals are happy, healthy, and receive excellent care at Lagoon.

I went on Lagoon’s train ride once. It saddened me to see the lovely animals — Siberian tigers, bears, miniature donkeys, deer, elk, camels, kangaroos, Canadian lynx and lions — in lonely enclosures. They all are kept in zoo-like conditions, except that an actual zoo has habitats that mimic the animals’ real-life habitats in the world — along with, of course, a glass wall to keep the animals safe in the enclosure.

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

Enclosures for the kangaroos are a more ideal environment than the felines’ cages. The kangaroos live in a square area covered in dirt, with trees and shelter. A fence is what separates them from their mammal friends — humans.

But right in front of the kangaroos is a huge line of people waiting to board the Sky Ride, a ride similar to a ski lift. And next to the Sky Ride is another ride that's less than 30 feet away called the Centennial Screamer. Is this type of environment OK for the animals? Constant shrieking from both people and the mechanical rides? Living in an amusement park isn't exactly the perfect location for a whole zoo of animals to reside.

I want to see these animals in an animal sanctuary, where the change in location will be great for them in a drastic way. No more constant clutter of noise all day heard through the animals’ ears. An animal sanctuary is where they will be at rest and hear nothing but the sounds of the gentle atmosphere, not a hectic one. It will be free of noise and will give those lovely creatures a state of peace.

There have been recent protests at Lagoon with people marching around demanding that the animals be freed from the amusement park and sent to animal sanctuaries.There is a petition you can sign at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/lagoon-animal-imprisonment/ to get the animals relocated in safe animal sanctuaries.

Sign the petition and be the voice for the animals if you believe they will live a better life there. I know I have.

Ceneca Solis will be a senior this fall at Clearfield High School. She enjoys art and spending time with her family and friends. Contact her 16csolis@davis.k12.ut.us.

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