From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1998:

A unique aspect of Walt Disney’s Animal
Kingdom, opened on April 22 in Lake Buena Vista,
Florida, is that it has taken high-risk geriatric animals
from older facilities, enabling some animals who have
long endured bare steel and cement to end their lives in
more congenial habitat. This hasn’t pleased the Animal
Rights Foundation of Florida, however, which fought
construction of the Animal Kingdom, and has repeatedly
demanded USDA probes of animal deaths there.
Among the 31 deaths between September 1997 and the
official opening, two Asian clawed otters––rarely
attracted to vegetable matter––ate the poisonous seeds
of ornamental loquats; four cheetah cubs ingested
antifreeze, apparently at a previous facility; two West
African crowned cranes were hit by vehicles; nine
gazelles, kudu, and antelopes died from various causes,
including injuries inflicted on each other in contesting
territory; a dik-dik died in surgery; a rhino died from
having ingested an 18-inch stick before arrival; a rhino
died under anesthesia for a veterinary exam; an elderly
hippo died in transit; another hippo died of infections
10 days after arrival from Europe; and some normally
short-lived naked mole rats, chinchilla rabbits, and
guinea pigs died. The death rate, about 4% of the
1,000-animal collection per year, is well below both
wild and zoo norms.

Major recent additions to zoos include a
$5.8 million expansion of the Columbus Zoo’s African
Jungle––part of a planned $20 million revamp that also
includes enlarging the elephant and rhino exhibits and
adding a manatee house––and a $4.5 million chimp
facility at the Los Angeles Zoo, opened to the chimps in
January but not to admit visitors until August 1.
More than two years after a fire on
Christmas Eve 1995 killed the entire Philadelphia
Zoo primate collection, a series of spring blazes
again showed the vulnerability of zoo housing to fire.
The five-year-old, privately owned Blackwater Zoo in
Charleston, West Virginia, lost five endangered lemurs
and two Capuchin monkeys on March 18 when a
propane space heater fell off a wall mount and ignited
their quarters. The Cincinnati Zoo lost a $4 million new
manatee house on May 20, days before completion,
when construction equipment somehow caught fire. No
animals were lost. A predawn fire on May 28 killed
more than 200 reptiles and amphibians at the Cape May
County Park & Zoo, in Middle Township, New Jersey.
Zoos have unique fire safety problems because, while
protecting human visitors is relatively easy, they also
must provide adequate heat for animals used to tropical
climates, whose habitats may include flamable dry
grass and brush; must limit the opportunities for animals
to escape; and cannot place sprinkler systems,
heat sensors, smoke detectors, or fire extinguishers
anywhere within reach of a curious animal.
The Orangutan Foundation, supporting the
1993 recommendation of noted orang researcher Birute
Galdikas, has committed $3 million to a facility for
“mistreated and unwanted American-born orangutans”
at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, of Hilo, Hawaii, which
has also received $1 million for the project from the
Hawaii legislature. The orangs, many of them hybrids
of different island subspecies, will not be bred.
According to the Maui News, the first resident will
probably be Rusty, an orang now at the Honolulu Zoo.

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