The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission completed a report on its investigation into the killing of a white rhino at Wild Florida, a drive-through safari park in Kenansville, Florida. Investigators found that the animal was shot to death after it escaped its enclosure, just a day after its arrival at the park last September.
According to CBS Orlando station WKMG, a park worker told FWC investigators that “we used the biggest guns that we had” after the rhino became aggressive and escaped the habitat where it had been placed only the night before.
The park’s owner, Jordan Munns, told investigators that the 3-year-old white rhino was placed into a small quarantine area upon arrival at the park on September 18, WKMG reported, citing the FWC documents. But the rhino broke out of that area, prompting the park to close to visitors for the next day over safety concerns. The next morning, the rhino continued to test the limits of its enclosure, pushing against the cable fencing, CBS News reported.
Eventually, the rhino managed to escape, and Munns gave the order to shoot. According to CBS News, the FWC report describes how the staff fired an estimated 15 rounds at the rhino, which managed to run about one-third of a mile before it fell and died. Staff members then buried the body “out of fear that a helicopter might spot the rhino” but left “a portion of the head exposed for us to observe upon our arrival,” investigators wrote in the report, according to WKMG.
In a statement posted to Facebook on Monday, Wild Florida wrote: “In September 2022, a new rhino began to pose an imminent danger to the park at large, and after consultation with leadership and Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) guidelines, we made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the animal.”
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Wild Florida advertises itself as the “World’s Only Airboat, Gator & Drive-Thru Safari Park Adventure.”
According to WKMG, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators closed their investigation, determining that no state laws were broken.
Kate MacFall, Florida senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States, told Orlando TV station WESH 2 in a statement: “The rhino died a needless horrific death, all in the name for a ticket to the roadside zoo…. Florida has many problem exhibitors; this authority was clearly not capable of handling this animal. Why were they not able to safely contain him? What was missing? What were they hiding from the helicopter? Would a necropsy be in order? Overall this is tragic to lose a member of a vulnerable species that had just arrived. The way he was killed with several rounds of bullets is not humane euthanasia.”