N.J. zoo under investigation

Jan. 20, 2013 at 4:57 PM

MOUNT HOLLY, N.J., Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Federal inspectors say they are investigating a zoo in New Jersey where four animals have died since September.

U.S. Agriculture Department investigators say they are checking for possible animal-welfare violations at the Animal Kingdom Zoo in Burlington County's Springfield Township, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday. They are looking into the euthanization of a giraffe and an adult hyena, a hyena cub hit by a car and a sick lemur found dead in its cage.

A 2-year-old girl was bitten by a spider monkey last May and the zoo was inspected 11 times last year, receiving 50 citations for various infractions, the USDA said. The privately owned zoo has racked up more than 200 violations in the past dozen years.

The 383-acre zoo was started in 1988 by Burton Sipp, a racehorse trainer who was charged with racing rules violations at tracks in five states, and has had his racing and training licenses suspended in Pennsylvania and revoked in New Jersey.

Last August, he called the alleged infractions at the zoo exaggerations of "very minor problems," but has declined comment since, the Inquirer said.

Since then, he has declined to be interviewed by The Inquirer.

There also were two accidental fires in 2011, including one that killed his wife and another that killed 24 animals.

A lawyer and veterinarian couple briefly took over the zoo under a lease agreement in October but backed out soon after, the newspaper said.

The zoo now has 20 monkeys, nine spotted hyenas, six scimitar-horned oryx, two red kangaroos, one red fox, three prehensile-tailed porcupines, two llamas and two Patagonian cavies among its 106 animals.

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