Reading Natural Bridge Zoo’s owner Karl Mogensen talk about his elephant Asha you’d think he loved the animals in his zoo the way a father loves his children. He claims the Humane Society and PETA are on a vendetta. “They try to stir up your emotions to get your money.” He asserts that many of the 44 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, found during two USDA inspections of the zoo in January and March, were either minor infractions.
Let’s look at the facts:
During the March, 2015 inspection and an earlier one in January, 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found a total of 44 violations of the Animal Welfare Act at the roadside zoo in Rockbridge County.
My Report on Natural Bridge Zoo
I visited the Natural Bridge Zoo in September 2013 to gather information for an animal welfare organization. It was a hot and dry day. The animals were ALWAYS in cages too small for them, many without fresh water, most either pacing back and forth or panting in the heat. Here is my report:
Natural Bridge Zoo in Natural Bridge, Virginia.
Monday, September 30, 2013.
- First animal I saw was a small Siberian lynx named “Zoey” in a very small display cage near the entrance. This was inside the first building. The cage is approximately 4’ x 6’. The cage had a glass window which made photographing difficult. Lynx paced constantly.
- Once inside the main zoo, the next animal I saw was a cougar in a wire fence, approximately 25’ x 25’. Pacing.
- Across from the cougar were 2 white Bengal tigers and one orange one. The tiger cage allowed about 4 tiger-lengths long, barely enough to pace back and forth. A baby tiger was alone in a cage approximately 10’ by 5’.
- Double Wattlled Cassowaries in cage approximately 10’ x 15’. (Very unusual animal. I’d never seen one before)
- Very small deer, about the size of a cocker spaniel, alone in a cage. Very friendly. Clearly wanted company.
- Asian Black Bear in cage approximately 10’x15’. I only saw one water source – a large tub with a ball in it. Apparently for both drinking and bathing. I didn’t see any other food or water.
- Two Fennec Foxes in small cage, approximately 3’x4’, constantly pacing.
Two female giraffes, one male, and one young giraffe of unknown gender. One of the females has extremely overgrown front hooves. She walks with an exaggerated gate, having to pick up her front hooves high to compensate for the overgrowth. No trees for them to chew on. Male giraffe chewed on top of metal fence. All seemed very interested in me, apparently hoping I was bringing food.
- Mandrills in cage approximately 25’ x 10’. No climbing structures other than wire cage.
- Rhea (bird). No visible water source.
- One female elephant in a fenced area with a wire separating the elephant from the fence. I don’t know if the wire was electrified or not. Area for the elephant to actually roam quite small. Zoo offers elephant rides but I didn’t see anyone interested in riding. There were only a few visitors at the zoo that day.
- Several African Sulcata Tortoises in various locations.
- Several Macaw parrots in small cage. Approximately 12’ x 4 ‘.
- Several Southern Ground Hornbills in small cages, approximately 5 ‘ x 10 ‘. Each one in its own cage. Not together.
- Alligator in a very dirty pool. Pool was approximately 4’ x 5’, and alligator was about 4’ long. No room to turn around. Soon will outgrow pool.
- White-handed Gibbons in small cage. They have climbing facilities.
Tufted Capuchin Monkeys. Food shoot for visitors to buy “monkey” food and place in shoot. Largest male monkey guards shoot so smaller monkeys can’t get treat. Food collects at bottom of shoot into small cage that looked very dirty and filled with rotting food.
- Ring-Tailed Lemurs in small cage.
- Bland & White Ruff Lemurs in small cage.
- Porcupines in small cage.
I spoke with one of the zoo keepers. She told me the zoo was a family owned and family run. Many areas of the zoo had strong smell of urine. Most animals had little relief from summer heat. It was a very depressing place. The zoo also had zebras, camels, chickens, geese, and a petting zoo area but these animals seem generally “happier” than those living life alone in wire cages. The small deer (number 5 above) was eager for our attention. She was across from the tiger cages, which seems like a particularly thoughtless place to put one tiny deer. I would not want to trade places with any of these animals.
Clearly Mr. Mogensen is NOT capable of providing a stimulating or even healthy lifestyle for these animals. Please keep up with the news about Natural Bridge Zoo and if it reopens, post requests on social media urging friends and family to BOYCOTT IT!
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The 27th Annual Clean the Bay Day is next Saturday, 9 – noon.
I usually go to the help those pulling trash out of the Rivanna River for Clean the Bay Day. This year I’m switching things up a bit. I’m volunteering at Meadowcreek. My contact is Jennifer Dalke with The Nature Conservancy.. . but there’s a problem. So far, only four people have signed up to help clean Meadowcreek! Please consider setting aside this upcoming Saturday morning to help clean our waterways. You can Register for Clean the Bay Day by clicking the Chesapeake Bay Foundation poster.