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Animal park, Lowry zoo haven't cut all ties

15 patas monkeys like this one escaped in Polk County.

15 patas monkeys like this one escaped in Polk County.

TAMPA — Lowry Park Zoo president Lex Salisbury assured the city last week that all arrangements between the zoo and his private exotic animal park Safari Wild had been severed.

But at least one arrangement is still outstanding.

Remember those patas monkeys that escaped from Safari Wild in Polk County this spring? They're now being housed at the zoo.

Under a boarding agreement, Safari Wild is paying for their stay in the zoo's clinic, said zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson. She said she didn't know how much money the zoo is receiving from the deal.

In April, Salisbury rescued 15 patas monkeys from Puerto Rico and put them on a 1-acre island at the yet-to-open Safari Wild. Within a couple of days, the monkeys were gone.

Apparently, they could swim.

"We've caught most of those things, and we will catch them all," Salisbury said earlier this month.

Five of the monkeys are still loose in Polk County. The other 10 are at the zoo, Nelson said.

On Monday, the city launched an audit of any and all of the zoo's transactions with Safari Wild, which would include this boarding arrangement. Mayor Pam Iorio said she will not comment on issues regarding the zoo until the city audit is complete.

Other arrangements the taxpayer-funded zoo made with Salisbury's private venture include:

• Ten acres of Safari Wild land where the zoo built two structures to hold animals and allowed its horses to graze.

• $600 rent to Safari Wild each month to temporarily care for five bison displaced by the new Gator Falls water flume ride.

Salisbury has insisted he never profited from the arrangements, which he says he entered into as favors to the zoo.

The zoo's executive board commissioned its own independent audit of the zoo's relationship with Safari Wild, which also is under way.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Animal park, Lowry zoo haven't cut all ties 09/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 25, 2008 4:27pm]
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