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Lion Country Safari Is One Of Florida’s Oldest Theme Parks

Q: How long has Lion Country Safari been in Palm Beach County?
A: The 500-acre attraction, 15 miles west of West Palm Beach, opened in 1967. It was one of the first theme parks in Florida and claims to be the nation’s “Cageless Zoo.” Its unique draw: The visitors were caged and the animals roamed free.
The first drive-through safari park was the idea of a group of South African and British entrepreneurs who wanted to bring the animals of Africa, roaming in their natural habitat, to America. They were attracted by Palm Beach County’s year-round good weather, plentiful land, growing population and reputation as a tourism draw. They built it for $3 million, basing it on popular safari-type parks in Europe and Africa.
The park, with its 5-mile driving trail, says it is the county’s largest tourist attraction. It boasts about 1,000 animals representing about 100 species, including 13 of the 27 rare white rhinoceroses born there in the past three decades.
At its peak, the park drew more than a million visitors a year. But it now draws about half of that, having lost some of its appeal when Disney became the world’s top tourist draw and counterparts such as Universal and Sea World popped up like mushrooms across Central Florida.
The park hasn’t been without its dangers. In 1974, it suffered its only fatality when a water buffalo trampled a game warden to death. In 1989, a chimpanzee attacked two workers; one employee accidentally shot the other in the confusion, but both survived. An elephant and a lion mauled workers in
separate incidents in 1990 and 1993.
The park is planning a major expansion, scheduled to open in 2005, that will increase its walk-through area by half.
Lion Country Safari: 793-1084. Web page: www.lioncountrysafari.com.

Posted in Eliot Kleinberg January 16, 2002 at 12:15 pm.

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