USDA finds critical, repeated violations at Wild Florida after rhino shooting

News 6 contacted Wild Florida for a comment and is waiting to hear back

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Weeks after an escaped rhino was shot and killed by staff members, an inspection has found Wild Florida Drive-Thru Safari Park was critically and repeatedly non-compliant for the federal Animal Welfare Act.

The inspection was conducted on Dec. 13, 2022, by a veterinary officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The results of that inspection were released on Tuesday.

According to the report, the veterinary officer noted the arrival of the rhino, which was placed in a temporary enclosure.

“According to the facility, the animal was initially calm but progressively became more determined to leave the temporary enclosure,” the report read, “Approximately a half hour after arrival, the animal escaped into the adjoining primary enclosure. The primary enclosure was composed of five strand reinforced wire gauge fencing and a hot wire. The following morning, the facility had been installing additional barriers to reinforce the temporary enclosure to prepare to re-crate the animal to transport off the facility. The animal fully left the enclosure area.”

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News 6 first reported on the shooting and killing of the white rhino last week.

Wild Florida’s general manager could be seen on body worn camera footage recorded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission explaining that he and his staff chased the animal and shot at it after it broke through its enclosure.

FWC determined the park had not violated any state laws.

The federal report released on Tuesday also noted issues with a holding area for bobcats, where “there was an unprotected electrical cord extending from an external fan to the outlet within the holding area.”

[INSIDER EXTRA: Read the full USDA report on Wild Florida]

“Enclosures must be of adequate strength to prevent animal escape, injury, and death,” the report stated.

The report also noted expired medications were found in the safari park feed room.

Even though some were expired by a couple months, one was two years past the expiration date and another was five years past the expiration date, the report said.

In March of 2022, USDA APHIS issued an official warning to Wild Florida after several Barbary sheep escaped the property and were killed by hunters.

“If APHIS obtains evidence of any future violation of these federal regulations, APHIS may pursue civil penalties, criminal prosecution, or other sanctions for this alleged violation(s) and for any future violation(s),” the warning stated.

News 6 has contacted APHIS to see if any action will be taken regarding the shooting of the rhino.

They said they cannot expand beyond what is already included in the report.

News 6 has also contacted Wild Florida for a comment and is waiting to hear back.

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About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.