KENANSVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) – State and federal government officials have concluded their inspection on an animal park in Central Florida after a white rhinoceros was shot and killed when it tried to escape.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the white rhino was shot dead less than a day after it arrived at the wildlife park last year. Reports showed that the incident took place on Sept. 19 at Wild Florida, a gator and drive-thru safari park about 60 miles south of Orlando in Kenansville.
FWC investigators said they were called to the park around a week later after they received an anonymous tip that called the shooting “animal abuse” and “unnecessary.”
However, the park’s owner, Jordan Munns told investigators that the rhino was “acting very wild” the day it arrived. Munns said they observed the animal “acting aggressively” as it tried to climb over an enclosure.
According to a previous WFLA8 story, the rhino climbed over a guardrail to escape the lockdown area and entered the main containment area, where it had yet to be placed. The rhino then tested the cable fence and hot wire surrounding the enclosure, but clamed down and spent the night resting in the main containment area.
The park closed the next day to allow the rhino time to acclimate, but when staff arrived the next morning, the animal began acting wild again and continued to test the fence. It was reported that staff tried to reinforce the fence by attaching more guardrail material to the top of it.
Animal park staff decided that if the white rhino breached the enclosure again, they would shoot it. Eventually, the rhino continued to test the fence, leading it to breach the containment.
Armed with high-powered rifles, staff chased the animal to a nearby cypress stand and opened fire. Once the animal was dead, workers loaded the rhino onto a trailer and drove it to a property where other animals were buried.
“Out of fear that a helicopter might spot the rhino, they dug a hole, placed the rhino in it, and covered it most of the way, leaving a portion of the head exposed for us to observe upon our arrival.”
The rhino “was in healthy condition” before it was killed, the report said.
Now, the inspection done by the federal government and the United States Department of Agriculture has been made available. In the report, inspectors noted that the primary enclosure for the rhino was made of “five strand reinforced wire gauge fencing and a hot wire,” that the animal was able to “fully leave” and was eventually “euthanized due to public safety.”
In conclusion, the inspector said, “enclosures must be of adequate strength to prevent animal escape, injury and death.”
According to NBC Affiliate WESH, the inspectors also found an “unprotected electrical cord” in spaces for bobcats and sloths. In another animal enclosure, the inspector said there was “floor wire fencing exposed with sharp points protruding.”
The inspectors also discovered “several expired medications,” including a couple that had been expired for years. And in some parts of the petting zoo, the inspector said there was an “excessive accumulation of fecal material.”
Wild Florida emailed WESH with a response about the conclusion of the inspection saying: “Our Wild Florida family is devastated following the heartbreaking conclusion of what would have been a significant addition to the park’s conservation experience. Adhering to industry best practices and regulations set by local governmental and non-governmental organizations, Wild Florida took all proper precautions to prepare for the rehoming of the deceased rhino. Despite these efforts, which included a full inspection and approval from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the enclosure constructed to house the rhino failed.
“Wild Florida worked with FWC and USDA for two years to prepare for the receipt of this rhino and has been in constant contact with them throughout this process. We now know that the current standards outlined by FWC need to be reviewed and we vow to work with the agency to establish new standards in the best interest of Rhinos all across Florida. Wild Florida’s top priority is and always will be the safety of all our wildlife residents, guests, and employees alike. We will continue to provide an experience that promotes a connection with animals while inspiring education and conservation.”