Mo. game park begins moving out animals

Friday, August 15, 2008 | 7:14 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS - Several animals will be moved Saturday from the eastern Missouri animal park where a tiger attacked a volunteer, part of a plan to shut down the farm as soon as homes can be found for the rest, owner Sandra Smith said.

Smith, who along with her husband owns Wesa-A-Geh-Ya in Warren County, said Friday that eight lions, four or five tigers, four Arctic wolves, a bear, a cougar and a leopard will be transported to the G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Wynnewood, Okla.

Smith said homes have not yet been found for about 30 other exotic animals. She said Joe Schreibvogel, park director of the Oklahoma facility, was helping with efforts to relocate those animals.

Volunteer Jacob Barr had part of his leg amputated after the attack in which a tiger jumped a fence on Aug. 3 at Wesa-A-Geh-Ya, about 70 miles northwest of St. Louis. The tiger was shot and killed.

Smith said she wished she had been injured instead of Barr.

"This accident shouldn't have happened. It was a horrible accident. Dear God, I wish it was me," Smith said.

Barr, 26, remained hospitalized Friday in satisfactory condition. He and his family have declined to comment.

Schreibvogel said his family opened the Oklahoma animal park in 1999 in memory of his brother, who loved animals and was killed by a drunk driver in 1997.

He said counting the invertebrates, the park, licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has about 1,400 animals, including 142 big cats. Many people donate to memorials to the park in honor of loved ones who have died, he said.

Schreibvogel estimated his park gets about 100,000 visitors annually.

He said the park had past USDA violations, but said it had learned from them. He said the park focuses on safety and training, but acknowledged dangers inherent in working with animals.

"It's a risk, and if you're in this business, that's a risk you should be willing to accept," Schreibvogel said.

The tiger attack in Warren County was one of two at Missouri exotic animal areas over a two-day period. On Aug. 4, 16-year-old Dakoda Ramel was critically injured at a Branson-area attraction known as Predator World, where he worked as an intern.

The business - which also calls itself the Branson Interactive Zoo and Aquarium - said Ramel had entered a pen to take pictures for a customer in violation of policy. His family declined to comment.

Both incidents are under investigation. No criminal charges have been filed.



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