The Forest Park Zoo (officially called The Zoo at Forest Park) is another very old facility which has been plagued with chronic mismanagement. It is still a privately-owned zoo but the director is an employee of the City of Springfield. Here are their USDA inspection records.
In 2013, they temporarily exhibited a lion cub named Samson from Bill Coburn’s Wild Acres Ranch. This is the same Bill Coburn who sold cub-petting photo ops at the Kalahari Resort and who admitted to slaughtering his lions for meat. The 4 1/2 week old cub was exhibited at Forest Park in a glass-windowed “nursery” and taken to local news studios before being exhibited in the same enclosure as a miniature pig. The zoo’s “African Lion” exhibit page shows Samson being petted and held by small children, walked on a dog leash, and generally treated like a pet. Samson was returned to Coburn after 6 months at Forest Park.
In January 2015, two monkeys died at the zoo. One of them, a baby marmoset, died after a fight with another monkey, while another monkey succumbed to cold after an overnight power outage shut off the heat to the primate building. The animal deaths were not reported for two months. When the zoo finally did report the deaths to the city, they changed their story, initially claiming that both monkeys were “seniors” who died of cold before admitting that one of them died in a fight (which the zoo downplayed as a “natural occurrence” not worth reporting). The animal deaths and poor communication were concerning enough to city officials that they held a meeting questioning the zoo’s ability to “have the resources available for the animals for their upkeep and well-being.”
In June 2016, a monkey named Dizzy escaped the zoo after a distracted employee failed to lock the enclosure. He roamed the zoo grounds for 3 days before being safely recaptured.
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