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Zoo chief agrees to Tampa's demands

TAMPA — Mayor Pam Iorio's emissaries met Tuesday with Lowry Park Zoo president Lex Salisbury, but they could not resolve differences over the mayor's demands for tightening city oversight at the facility.

Iorio wants the zoo to recognize that the animals, like the zoo's land, belong to the city, according to a 1988 lease that granted the zoo its property for $100 a year. Salisbury and the zoo attorney don't agree.

Many of the animals, they say, are on loan from other zoos, or endangered species that belong to the state and national government.

The city doesn't want to step in and manage the zoo, said City Attorney Chip Fletcher.

"It's really a question of accountability, and the city's ability to make sure that the zoo … continues to be operated well," he said.

The mayor also asked that her representative, Santiago Corrada, be promoted from the zoo's full 38-member board to its more powerful six-member executive board.

But zoo attorney Richard Harrison said he has to look over the zoo's governing documents to see if that can happen.

He said Corrada is one of seven people from government agencies on the full board, and he was concerned about offending the other six.

As a member of the lesser board, Corrada didn't know the zoo had paid for two animal-holding structures on Safari Wild land, or had received 10 free acres from the private park to allow its horses to graze.

He didn't know the zoo had entered into a loan agreement in which Safari Wild would have received some offspring of three white rhinos staying on the private land.

"Clearly, as a regular board member, if he is not privy to all of this information, he needs to be on the executive board," the mayor said Monday.

The city and zoo attorneys will meet again to further discuss both of those issues.

The city has also asked the zoo for an inventory its animals, including those loaned to other zoos. Harrison said the zoo will provide any reports the lease requires.

The city staffers told Salisbury never again to house zoo animals on his private, for-profit exotic animal park, Safari Wild.

Salisbury agreed. He said the relationship between the nonprofit zoo and Safari Wild had already been severed.

Salisbury has said that the zoo's animal collection is outgrowing its space. Five zoo bison now live at Safari Wild after being displaced by the Gator Falls water flume ride.

Those bison could end up on city land, if the zoo accepts Iorio's offer to use some of the water department's 400 acres in Thonotosassa.

Those talks will continue.

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

Zoo chief agrees to Tampa's demands 09/16/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 18, 2008 7:31am]
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