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Salisbury, former Lowry colleague both quit national board

TAMPA — The same day he resigned under pressure from his Lowry Park Zoo presidency last week, Lex Salisbury withdrew his membership from the Zoological Association of America, where he served on the board of directors.

Salisbury was secretary of the ZAA, an organization that encourages "conservation through commerce." It is made up of exotic animal breeders, exhibitors and a few mainstream zoos.

Lowry's director of collections, Larry Killmar, served as chairman of the group. Killmar quit, too, new ZAA chairman Jim Fouts told association members in a letter.

"Each resigned for different reasons," wrote Fouts, who runs Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas. "However, both felt it to be in the best interest of the organization with all the controversy surrounding Lowry Park Zoo."

Salisbury resigned from Lowry after a highly critical 60-page city audit stated he had used zoo animals, assets and employees for his personal ventures, at a cost of more than $200,000 to the taxpayer-funded zoo.

Killmar signed off on several transactions in which zoo animals were transferred into Salisbury's personal care.

Both Salisbury and Killmar have had their accreditations suspended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a longtime industry standard that gives its seal of approval to the nation's most respected zoos.

Lowry's accreditation also has been suspended.

The zoo was not the only institution tarnished by the dealings. ZAA members say they have had to defend their fledgling group because of Salisbury.

"What's interesting," says Indiana kennel owner Ron Young, "is that he didn't bother to apologize."

Several members have been calling for Salisbury and Killmar's ousting for months, as reports piled up detailing the president's dealings.

"The Lowry Park incidents have dug a very deep hole in the reputation and integrity of an organization which I had developed a great fondness for and commitment to," Terry Cullen, director of a wildlife conservancy in Milwaukee, writes to the new ZAA chairman.

Cullen and three other members, upon reading what they call the disturbing audit findings, wrote an open letter to the ZAA board of directors demanding Salisbury resign and Killmar step down as leader.

"We stand in disbelief of Mr. Salisbury's actions," they write. "We have also begun to question Dr. Killmar's actions and/or lack of actions as Lowry Park's director of collections."

And Monday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals fired off a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking officials to investigate trades, sales, loans and gifts of Lowry animals made to Salisbury while he was president of the zoo.

The total number of animals exchanged between the zoo and Salisbury added up to more than 200.

"If violations of the Endangered Species Act are found," writes PETA captive exotic animal specialist Lisa Wathne, "we ask that all parties involved be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Neither Salisbury nor Killmar returned calls for comment.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Salisbury, former Lowry colleague both quit national board 12/22/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 12:09am]
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