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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Keeping the lions....or idiots safe

Lion Country Safari a popular tourist destination in Palm Beach County has errected a fence in part of its park. The park which is nearly forty years old, allows cars to drive through areas where wild animals freely roam.

Read the entire Palm Beach Post article. In spite of warnings, visitors to LCS sometimes risk their own lives to get pictures. How dumb can people be? These aren't house pets. The park put it up the fence for fear of litigation. I don't blame them, some fool would get killed because of their own stupidity and then a jury would give a multi-million dollar verdict. Says a great deal about our society on more than one level. Morons and imbeciles rule.

Personal note- I've been to LCS just once in my life. It was in 1970 or 1971. While driving through part of the park, traffic suddenly stopped. A girafe was was walking between cars. I just wish I could find that photo.

Open Post- Bright & Early, Third World County, Diane's Stuff,

LOXAHATCHEE — In the competition for most-feared creature at a popular drive-through safari, lawyers have now eclipsed lions.

If Lion Country Safari can't stop people from opening their car windows in front of the dangerous cats, it can put up a fence to prevent a potentially frightful outcome — lawsuits.

The big warning signs, ever-present lion keepers and real roaming lions didn't convince people to follow the rules. But the danger that a daring guest would go too far and get hurt became too scary for park operators.

Fearing an attack would cause a traumatic injury and trigger litigation, the park put up a fence between cars and lions last month, substantially taming a quirky South Florida attraction.

"We had some guests taking risks and maybe getting a little too risky," park spokeswoman Jennifer Berthume said. "If you had one incident where something did happen, it would be very tragic. We didn't want to wait for that to happen."

The animals in the rest of the preserve still can roam next to vehicles.

When Lion Country opened in 1967, it was the first of its kind in the country and had nothing but lions. In nearly 40 years, it added hundreds of other animals and rides, but always gave guests the novelty of driving dangerously close to a lion. Most other wild animal safaris that followed have since closed, and only one, in Winston, Ore., still allows people to drive among the kings of the jungle.

The new Lion Country setup takes cars on the same path but encloses the lions on a 660-foot-long island with more room, swinging toys and no vehicle access.

This is one of the busiest times of the year, when up to 40,000 cars are expected to pass through within two weeks.

Lion Country Wildlife Director Terry Wolf said the park has considered fencing off the lions for years, but it finally was done in November after signs, lights and a loudspeaker didn't seem to be enough to ensure guests behaved safely. He said the for-profit park can't afford the liability.

This year, a judge held a similar Canadian attraction, African Lion Safari, liable for $2.5 million after two guests were bitten by a tiger. In the 1996 incident, the visitors said they accidentally lowered the automatic window when a tiger bumped the car. Though that case didn't prompt the decision to fence off the lions, Wolf said it illuminated the risk.

"That park suffered tremendously from that one case. We know about it, but it's always been in our head," Wolf said. "To me, this isn't an overnight decision."

On a recent drive through Lion Country Safari, one out of every dozen vehicles had a window partially down. One driver cracked open a van door to photograph the lions. A man in a zebra-striped truck quickly admonished the guests, and they moved on. Lion keeper Brian Dowling said it has been a constant struggle to keep the lions and visitors safe.

"You really have to stay on your toes all the time," he said. He calls his work a "white-knuckle job" that makes him clutch the steering wheel.

In rare cases, people have exited their cars and attempted to feed the lions. The wild animals have rubbed against vehicles, bitten bumpers and nearly been run over.

Since the chain-link fence went up, about a half-dozen people have complained to park management.

"Once you explain there's more area (for lions) to roam, less stress, they're like, 'OK, cool,' " Wolf said. "From the lions' point of view, this is supreme. This is the cat's meow."

The park is trying to come up with ways to get people closer to the 14 lions, possibly using a tram, gondola or guided tour.

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