From In Defense of
A coalition of 16 Florida zoos and aquariums tried to quietly pass a bill that would have allowed them to lease state-owned land to breed exotic species under the guise of "research." We asked our Florida members to send letters opposing the bill. We're pleased to report that Governor Rick Scott has vetoed it.
Critics of the bill, including environmental and wildlife activists, warned that zoos would use public lands needed for the conservation of native wildlife, interfere with restoration efforts, and prevent public use of recreational lands.
In his veto letter, Gov. Scott stated that the authority sought in the bill already exists in current law, but he added: "I believe the bill lacks sufficient safeguards... to ensure the protection of state and district lands, native species and habitats."
The bill was pushed by Lowry Park Zoo vice president Larry Killmar, who had close ties with former zoo CEO Lex Salisbury, who was forced out of his position after a city audit found he took more than $200,000 in animals and equipment.
According to the Tampa Tribune, Killmar "authorized many of the animal transactions" that sent 200 of the zoo's animals to Salisbury's planned wildlife park. The project may also have infringed on sensitive wildlife habitat. Thanks to IDA members in Florida who contacted their elected officials about this bill that was about profit, not conservation.