> Also in recent months a white rhinoceros died under anesthetic for a
> routine medical exam, a hippopotamus died from infection, two Asian
> small-clawed otters died after eating a nonindiginous fruit, and two
> West African crowned cranes were killed by a 32-passenger safari
> vehicle in separate accidents in February and March.
Wednesday April 8 2:56 PM EDT
Disney Says Probe Won't Slow Park Opening
By Brad Liston
ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - A government investigation of animal deaths at
Walt Disney World's newest theme park should not delay the Animal
scheduled opening in two weeks, a company official said Wednesday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched an investigation Tuesday
into a string of animal deaths, including four poisoned cheetah cubs and
two exotic cranes run
over by safari vehicles.
"We're still planning to open April 22," Disney spokeswoman Diane Ledder
said. "We welcome the USDA and plan to cooperate fully. We have very
and maintain a superior habitat."
A USDA spokesman said the investigation was prompted by complaints from
both anonymous and named sources, but would not discuss what the
entail or how long investigators will be at the park.
"We want to ensure all animals are receiving the proper care," USDA
spokesman Jim Rogers said.
His agency has the primary authority for regulating zoos, and its
inspectors have visited the $800 million park five times since
"We've always found the park to be in compliance but we want to go a
little deeper than an inspection would go," Rogers said.
If Disney is found to be in violation of federal strictures, the park
could be fined or lose its license to display animals.
The four cheetah cubs died last Christmas from a type of kidney failure
associated with poisoning from ethylene glycol, a component in various
Also in recent months a white rhinoceros died under anesthetic for a
routine medical exam, a hippopotamus died from infection, two Asian
small-clawed otters died
after eating a nonindiginous fruit, and two West African crowned cranes
were killed by a 32-passenger safari vehicle in separate accidents in
February and March.
Animal rights groups, led by the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida,
plan to picket the park on opening day.
"Disney's record with live animals is atrocious," said foundation
managing director Joe Taksel.
But Disney has support from such groups as the American Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Wildlife Conservation Society.