Lowry Park Zoo
|Location||Tampa, Florida, USA|
|Land area||56 acres (23 ha)|
|Number of animals||1,700+ |
Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is a 56-acre (23 ha) nonprofit zoo located in Tampa, Florida. In 2004, Lowry Park Zoo was voted the #1 Family Friendly Zoo in the US by Child Magazine, and is recognized by the State of Florida as the center for Florida wildlife conservation and biodiversity (HB 457).
Tampa's Lowry Park Zoological Society, in agreement with the City of Tampa, operates Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization.
During the middle 1950s, Mayor Nick Nuccio led the push to move the zoo to a more spacious location. Land further up the river near the neighborhood of Seminole Heights was chosen. The combination zoo and park was christened Lowry Park after General Sumter Loper Lowry, a local resident celebrated for civic contributions and his service in several wars, but vilified by some for his controversial political views.
The new Lowry Park Zoo opened in 1957. The zoo shared the park with Fairyland, where concrete statues depicting fairy tales and nursery rhymes were along a winding maze of paths beneath the limbs of sprawling oak trees. This whimsical area was accessible via a large rainbow bridge.
As the wildlife collection grew, other attractions and rides were also added. By the early 1980s, the zoo featured a small roller coaster, a skyride, and a kid-sized train, among other kiddie rides. However, the zoo facilities were in need of repair and renovation, with the animals cramped concrete quarters so poor that the Humane Society called it “one of the worst zoos in America”.
After several years of fundraising and with the help and support of the city, the old zoo was closed in the mid-80s for a complete reconstruction in which nearly all traces of the original zoo (including Fairyland) were removed.
The zoo features a larger collection of Florida species than any other zoo and includes Key Deer, American Alligator, Flamingos, Roseate Spoonbill, Florida Panther, American Crocodile, North American River Otter and many other species. The zoo also features several hands-on exhibits, including Lorikeet feeding, stingray feeding, camel rides, an interactive discovery center, a petting area, a river ecotour and West Indian Manatee encounters. The most recent addition to the zoo is Safari Africa, which houses African elephants, giraffe, Grevy's Zebra, White Rhinoceros, shoebill stork, okapi, meerkats and other African species.
One of the zoos oldest sections, the Asian Domain, was renovated and renamed the Asian Gardens in 2007. Exhibits there include Indian Rhinoceros, Malayan Tigers, Babirusa, Komodo Dragon, Clouded Leopards, Sloth Bears, and an Indonesian-themed Sulawesi Aviary.
The zoo has several Species Survival Plan projects, which includes threatened and endangered species species and species of special concern. These include Chimpanzee, Bornean Orangutan, Mandrill, Siamang, Colobus, Golden Lion Tamarin, Ring-tailed Lemur, Indian Rhinoceros, Clouded Leopard, Sloth Bear, Babirusa, Red Wolf, African Elephant, Bali Mynah, Victoria Crowned Pigeon, lined seahorse, Great Indian Hornbill, Palm Cockatoo, and Komodo Dragon programs.
The zoo hosts a hospital for Florida manatees in which injured animals are rehabilitated with the intent of returning them to the wild. Other notable conservation projects include Key Largo Woodrats, Florida Panthers, Whooping Cranes, Key Deer, and the Butterfly Conservation Initiative.
Starting with the Australia addition, Lowry Park Zoo has added several children's rides, including a merry go round, "Flying Bananas", pony and camel rides, a mini-roller coaster, and a skyride. The Tasmanian Tiger roller coaster was sold to the zoo by Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation and moved from Wild Adventures theme park in Valdosta, Georgia.
Gator Falls, which opened in June 2008, is a log flume ride. It is the largest and most expensive ride in the zoo to date, costing US$1.5 million to build. The ride features a single 30-foot (9.1 m) drop, and the track carries riders over the park's albino alligator exhibit. According to zookeepers, the alligators are two of only 38 known white gators in the world. The ride also offers education about the genetic mutation that causes albino alligators.
In 2006, one of the zoo's two Sumatran tigers, a 14-year-old female named Enshala, slipped through an unlocked gate and into an area undergoing renovation. The zoo director, Lex Salisbury, defended his decision to shoot and kill the animal after attempts to tranquilize the tiger failed and the animal lurched towards the animal doctor that had shot the tranquilizer dart.
Later in 2006, a group known as "Tampa's Zoo Advocates" formed. The organization seeks to improve the living conditions of the animals as well as working conditions of the employees of Lowry Park Zoo.
In April 2008, 15 patas monkeys escaped from Safari Wild, a for-profit animal attraction under development east of Tampa in rural Polk County. This brought media attention to the venture, which is owned and operated by long-time Lowry Park Zoo director Lex Salisbury.
Subsequent investigations revealed many questionable transactions between Safari Wild and Lowry Park Zoo, including the transfer of over 200 zoo animals to Safari Wild, zoo funds being used to build structures on Safari Wild property, and payments from the zoo to "board" animals at Safari Wild. The city of Tampa, which provides a portion of the zoo's annual budget, demanded an audit detailing the relationship between Lowry Park, Salisbury, and his outside business ventures.
The audit was released in December 2008 and disclosed many questionable dealing between the zoo and Safari Wild. It also uncovered violations of zoo policies by Salisbury, including increasing his own bonus payments, charging the zoo for personal travel, and using zoo employees for his personal work. Auditors estimated that Salisbury owed the zoo more than $200,000 and suggested a criminal investigation. On December 19, 2008, Salisbury, under pressure from the zoo's board of directors and the city of Tampa, resigned from his position at the zoo.
As a result of possible violations of animal transfer rules and species survival plans, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums suspended the membership of Lowry Park Zoo and of Larry Killmar, the zoo's Director of Collections who had authorized many of Salisbury's questionable animal transfers. Under Killmar, the zoo reorganized its internal policies over several months, and on March 27, 2009, the AZA reinstated the membership of both Lowry Park Zoo and its director of collections.
The saga came to a close in August 2009 when Salisbury and the Lowry Park Zoo board agreed to a settlement in which Salisbury paid $2,200 and agreed to return all the structures, fencing, and equipment that the zoo had built at Safari Wild but did not admit to any wrongdoing.
- "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
- Maureen, By. "The 10 Best Zoos for Kids: 1. Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, FL". Parents.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
- By HP-Time.com Monday, Apr. 02, 1956 (1956-04-02). "The Land of Boycott - TIME". Time.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
- "Nick Chillura Nuccio – 47th and 49th Mayor of Tampa". Tampagov.net. Retrieved 2008-12-22.[dead link]
- Tampa zoo tops for kids
- "Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo - Zoo History". Lowryparkzoo.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22.[dead link]
- French, Thomas (2010). Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 1-4013-2346-4.
- Lenora Lake. "A Bit Late, Lowry Zoo Opens Gator Falls Ride, Exhibit", The Tampa Tribune, MSNBC.com. June 26, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-07-04.
- "Lowry Park unveils Gator Falls". Bay News 9. 27 June 2008. Retrieved 30 December 2008.[dead link]
- "Hillsborough: Loose tiger killed at zoo". Sptimes.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
- "Tampabay: As tiger leapt, zoo director had no doubt". Sptimes.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
- Escape from Monkey Island sptimes.com
- "Monkeys that started zoo saga recaptured - St. Petersburg Times". Tampabay.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
- "Lowry Park chief steps down temporarily - St. Petersburg Times". Tampabay.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
- "Records show 200 animal transactions involving Lowry Park, president - St. Petersburg Times". Tampabay.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
- "Tampa mayor recommends Lowry Park Zoo director be fired, investigated - St. Petersburg Times". Tampabay.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
- "Lowry Park's longtime chief forced to resign - St. Petersburg Times". Tampabay.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
- "Lowry Park Zoo president soon to be investigated by the city of Tampa | 10connects.com | Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater". Tampabays10.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
- "Salisbury resigns from Zoological Association of America - St. Petersburg Times". Tampabay.com. Retrieved 2008-12-22.[dead link]
- "Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo earns back its accreditation - St. Petersburg Times". Tampabay.com. Retrieved 2009-04-01.
- Salisbury settles with Lowry Park Zoo - St. Petersburg Times Tampabay.com. Retrieved 2010-07-06
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