Students at Salt Lake Community College are rallying behind a petition to shut down Lagoon’s Wild Kingdom Train zoo, which has drawn criticism for decades over the treatment of exotic animals at the park.
Several recent Facebook posts and an online petition demand change from Lagoon, a popular amusement park in Farmington, Utah, with some SLCC students refusing to see Lagoon profit off the suffering of such animals.
Lagoon has run the Wild Kingdom Train since 1967. The miniature train ride allows guests to see 60 animals from all over the world. Lagoon’s zoo is privately operated, meaning it is largely unregulated.
Many exotic animals have been lethargic, shaking, sitting in their own feces and muscles atrophied. Photos and videos of the animals in states of distress have surfaced many times on social media over the years.
The animals’ cages, some no larger than a walk-in closet, are made of cement and steel. Through the metal bars, guests can see ribs showing through fur.
Students at SLCC are among thousands in Utah that have signed the Care2 petition to have it shut down and have the animals released to non-profit sanctuaries.
“I do think the zoo should be shut down, because the care of the animals is awful,” says Audrey Gibson, a second-year music major at SLCC. “I do not see any point of having a zoo in an amusement park. ‘Abusement park’ would be an accurate description of the situation.”
Students who had only recently had this brought to their attention were also eager for change. Dominic Martinez, an SLCC student in the surgical technician program, says he won’t go to Lagoon while the ride is still in operation.
“I didn’t see the petition, but I’m willing to sign it anytime,” he says. “Lagoon is overpriced, [and I have no desire] to go there until the animals have been released.”
The video that students are responding to was submitted anonymously to Utah Animal Rights Coalition and depicts a lion on the ground in his cage in obvious distress. This video is one of many that have surfaced over the last few years.
Lagoon did not respond to requests for an interview but did release a statement on its Facebook page regarding the lion in the video, claiming that this type of behavior from lions is normal and not to cause concern.
With respect to the video circulating online, this is NOT uncommon behavior. Lions roaring while lying down is well documented, and does not indicate or suggest distress – quite the opposite.
Lagoon would like to reassure the public that this lion receives great care and treatment, and enjoys excellent health. This untruthful mischaracterization of the video is naïve, misguided, and unfortunate.
911 Animal Abuse created a page to raise awareness and organize protests of the Wild Kingdom Train. The page features pictures of the animals and instances where the park has been cited by government agencies for mistreatment of the animals.