Burlco Zoo Warned Against Selling Off Animals

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One of a handful of giraffes that grace the troubled Animal Kingdom Zoo. The giraffes are visible from a country road in Springfield. (Jan Hefler/Staff)

A Burlington County zoo under federal investigation is being warned against selling or donating exotic animals to people without keeping records or checking to see if there are valid licenses to possess them.     

Recent animal welfare inspection reports have cited the zoo in Springfield Township for a slew of animal neglect and facility maintenance issues.  The reports also fault Animal Kingdom for donating four wolves to an unidentified woman in October without recording the transaction.  By December, when inspectors returned, the records were still unavailable.

In a notorious animal welfare case 10 years ago, Joan Byron-Marasek, dubbed  "The Tiger Lady," lost custody of 24 Bengal tigers she illegally kept on her Jackson Township, Ocean County preserve. 

State inspectors determined she kept them as pets.  The problem came to light when one tiger was seen wandering around a neighborhood and had to be shot.  In New Jersey, dangerous animals can only be kept for exhibition, breeding or other commercial purposes. 

At Animal Kingdom, employees later told the inspectors that the wolves were returned to the facility. 

The zoo has often been cited for poor record-keeping.  An October inspection report said the zoo improperly transported a capuchin and common marmoset across state lines without having a veterinarian document that they were healthy. 

The zoo is currently under investigation for an incident last year in which a spider monkey bit a two-year-old child.  The zoo was cited for failure to properly secure the animals' cages and enclosures, which endangered both the public and the animals, according to the inspection reports. 

The probe is ongoing.  A USDA spokesman said the agency's goal is to wrap up investigations within 12 months of an incident. 

In 2012, inspectors visited the facility 11 times and cited the zoo for 50 violations and infractions.  You can access the reports here:http://acissearch.aphis.usda.gov/LPASearch/faces/CustomerSearch.jspx 

There's no word yet on what action will be taken as a result of these inspections. 

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