Photographs by Jason Ivester
Erica Parker of Locust Grove, Okla., (center) holds a 7-week-old bear cub at the Wild Wilderness Drive Through Safari in Gentry, which was found to have violated U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations from 2012-16.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Leon Wilmoth acknowledges the dead lion was his fault.
Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari has been the focus of several legal matters and complaints over the years.
1998: Wild Wilderness pays an $8,000 fine to settle U.S. Department of Agriculture accusations of violations ranging from poor record-keeping to unsanitary conditions and improper pens, all of which occurred in 1993 and 1994.
2002: Freddy Wilmoth, who at the time was the safari’s manager, pleads guilty in federal court to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Endangered Species Act. He is sentenced to six months of home confinement and three years of probation and is ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution. Wilmoth had been charged for selling four endangered tigers that were later killed for their hides. He is no longer associated with the safari.
2002: The safari agrees to pay a $10,000 fine to settle multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act from USDA inspections in 1999 and 2000. The settlement includes a requirement half of that money be spent on training of personnel and to improve facilities.
2005: A Benton County woman sues the safari, claiming a monkey bit off much of her hand, including two fingers, as she was preparing to feed it during a visit to the park in 2004. The case was settled and the result is confidential, according to Chadd Mason, a Fayetteville attorney who represented the woman.
2008: The safari pays $3,094 to resolve alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
2012: The U.S. Department of Agriculture issues a letter of warning to the safari.
2015: A Benton County jury awards $916,745 to the safari in compensation for 9 acres of the park taken by Southwest Electric Power for the placement of high-voltage lines. The utility company originally offered $36,600 for the land.
2017: The U.S. Department of Agriculture files a lengthy complaint outlining numerous violations by the safari, including reports of inadequate veterinary care and failure to keep appropriate barriers between humans and dangerous animals.
Source: Staff report
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