Lion Country Safari

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Lion Country Safari
Lion Country Safari Entrance.JPG
Date opened 1967; 50 years ago (1967)
Location Loxahatchee, Florida, USA
Coordinates 26°42′58″N 80°19′20″W / 26.7160778°N 80.3221278°W / 26.7160778; -80.3221278Coordinates: 26°42′58″N 80°19′20″W / 26.7160778°N 80.3221278°W / 26.7160778; -80.3221278
Memberships AZA[1]

Lion Country Safari is a drive-through safari park located in Loxahatchee (near West Palm Beach), in Palm Beach County, Florida. Founded in 1967, it claims to be the first 'cageless zoo' in the United States.

In 2009, USA Travel Guide named Lion Country the 3rd best zoo in the nation. [1]


Lion Country Safari was founded in 1967 by a group of South African, American and British entrepreneurs who wished to provide a safari experience for families who would not normally be able to experience it. The park originally exhibited only lions.

In the beginning, the park had its own 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railroad, the Everglade Express. This attraction was eventually closed and the Crown Metal Products 4-4-0 locomotive was put on static display. Later, the locomotive was donated to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami before finally being bought and fully restored by the Veterans Memorial Railroad, located in Bristol, Florida's Veterans Memorial Park. It runs on that railroad to this day.[2][3]

The original South Florida park is the only one remaining in operation. Lion Country Safari previously operated parks in Irvine, California (1970–1984); Grand Prairie, Texas (1971–1992); Stockbridge, Georgia (1970-1984); Mason, Ohio (1974–1993) and Doswell, Virginia (1974–1993); all of them subsequently closed.



The original park in Florida consists of over 1,000 animals, kept in large fenced areas with approximately 5 miles of paved roadway running throughout.

Visitors who purchase a ticket enter the park in their own vehicle, driving slowly at their own pace, and view the animals while listening to a recorded narration on audiotape or CD. Some animals, such as giraffes, rhinoceroses, and zebras, are allowed to roam freely, even crossing the road in front of vehicles. Others, such as lions or chimpanzees, are segregated behind fences or water barriers.

Visitors are warned to drive slowly and carefully, to avoid stopping too close to animals, and not to open their car doors or windows. The lions, whose ability to roam freely with cars was one of the park's original attractions, were separated from visitors by a fence around the road in 2005, due to visitors ignoring warnings and opening their car doors.

A unique aspect of Lion Country Safari is the chimpanzee exhibit. The chimps live on an island system where they move to a different island every day, replicating their natural nomadic lifestyle. The chimps live in complex social groups, as they would in the wild. Because of this, Lion Country Safari has been useful to those interested in behavioral studies of chimps. As of 2012, chimpanzees living at Lion Country Safari include Little Mama, one of the oldest chimpanzees in captivity, born in 1938. Lion Country Safari also serves as a retirement facility for chimpanzees who were once used in research laboratories and entertainment.

After visitors have driven through the park, they can visit Safari World, a theme park with some zoo exhibits, and amusement park fare such as a Ferris wheel, a petting zoo, a small water park, and a giraffe-feeding exhibit. Food is available at Lion Country Safari's main restaurant.

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