Make us your home page
Instagram

Ex-Lowry Park Zoo director Lex Salisbury opens Giraffe Ranch attraction in Pasco

A setting right out of Africa. Only it's northeast Pasco.

That's how Lex Salisbury describes his ranch north of Dade City, which he is marketing as a giraffe attraction that visitors can tour for $59 each. The former Lowry Park Zoo director — who resigned in 2008 amid a controversy over transferring animals between the zoo, his Safari Wild venture in Polk County and his northeast Pasco ranch — has now christened his homestead Giraffe Ranch, ready and open for business.

"Have you ever fed a giraffe? Have you ever smelled their grassy breath? These are memories that will last you a lifetime," said a Web site devoted to Giraffe Ranch, at 38650 Mickler Road.

Visitors will board a four-wheel drive, safari-style vehicle for a tour of the 46-acre ranch, which boasts four giraffes, some monkeys and birds and zebras, as well as 40 Irish Dexter cattle and nine horses.

Salisbury and his wife, Elena Sheppa, have owned the ranch since 2001 and live in a 2,300-square-foot home there. They offered occasional private tours several years ago to friends and neighbors and still want to keep things low-key. Tours will be limited to two per day, with a maximum of 20 people per tour.

"This is not a zoo or a theme park," said Sheppa, who along with Salisbury and a part-time employee, cares for the animals. She said they recently sent fliers to area schools and had gotten "a positive response."

Sheppa said the property mimics Africa.

"That's why the animals do well in these environments," she said.

Salisbury made headlines when he was forced to resign in 2008 from the helm of Lowry Park amid allegations he intermingled the taxpayer-supported zoo's assets with those of a private, for-profit operation he opened in Polk County called Safari Wild. The controversy began after 15 patas monkeys escaped from an island at Safari Wild.

Zoo officials admitted that during Salisbury's career there, he was able to buy, loan, trade and receive more than 200 zoo animals for Safari Wild and his Pasco County ranch.

"Fundamentally, Mr. Salisbury appeared to treat the operation at Lowry Park Zoo, his for-profit venture Safari Wild and his residence ranch as one," a city audit said.

The zoo claimed Salisbury owed it more than $200,000, but Salisbury had counterclaims for boarding costs for animals on his property, so he ended up paying about $2,200.

Safari Ranch had won approval by Polk County officials, but state officials are challenging it, saying it's on sensitive land. Last year the Southwest Florida Water Management District fined the park $8,863 for excavation, dredging and filling in areas without permits, but agreed that much of the land was being used for agricultural purposes and did not need permits. The fines are for the rest.

The Pasco Giraffe Ranch property is zoned agricultural, according to county records, and is in compliance with the county's land development codes.

Gary Morse, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the ranch had has no recent violations. "They've been there a long time," he said. "Everything's in order."

Zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson said the ownership of the animals on Salisbury's ranch was not in dispute.

"We no longer have a relationship with the former CEO and any of his endeavors," she said.

FAST FACTS

On the Web

For information on Giraffe Ranch, visit http://girafferanch.com.

Ex-Lowry Park Zoo director Lex Salisbury opens Giraffe Ranch attraction in Pasco 03/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 10:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Strategic Property Partners launches website for Water Street Tampa

    Business

    Strategic Property Partners has launched its official website for Water Street Tampa, its 53-acre redevelopment project in downtown Tampa Tuesday.

    Strategic Property Partners on Tuesday announced the name of its new development: Water Street Tampa. [Photos courtesy of SPP]
  2. ReliaQuest CEO Brian Murphy named sole Tampa Bay winner in EY state entrepreneur contest

    Business

    ReliaQuest founder and CEO Brian Murphy was named one of nine winners statewide and the only one from the Tampa Bay area in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Florida Awards program. Murphy won in the IT security division after starting ReliaQuest in 2007. Five of the nine winners were from the Miami …

    Tampa's ReliaQuest founder and CEO Brian Murphy was named one of nine winners statewide and the only one from the Tampa Bay area in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Florida Awards program. Murphy won in the IT security division after starting ReliaQuest in 2007.
  3. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    Former Florida Gov. and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their condo in downtown St. Petersburg on the market for $1.5 million. [Courtesy of Rhonda Sanderford]
  4. First WannaCry, now cyberattack Petya spreads from Russia to Britain

    Business

    Computer systems from Russia to Britain were victims of an international cyberattack Tuesday in a hack that bore similarities to a recent one that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide.

    A computer screen cyberattack warning notice reportedly holding computer files to ransom, as part of a massive international cyberattack, at an office in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday.  A new and highly virulent outbreak of malicious data-scrambling software appears to be causing mass disruption across Europe.
[Oleg Reshetnyak via AP]