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New fence keeps park visitors from lions

Associated Press
Published December 30, 2005

LOXAHATCHEE - Years of sneaky visitors cracking open car windows in hopes of an intimate encounter with the kings of the jungle has caused Lion Country Safari to finally erect a fence between man and its beasts.

Roaming lions, warning signs and admonishing keepers couldn't convince visitors to follow the rules in the drive-through wildlife park and stay in their cars with their windows rolled up. Most visitors crack open a car window or a door, but some have even gotten out and attempted to feed the lions.

Officials at the Palm Beach County park said they have been considering a fence for years, fearing a serious injury or a lawsuit.

In November they erected the barricade, the first in the park's 38-year history.

It allows cars to roam through the same path, but safely encloses the beasts where they can roam free on a 660-foot-long island.

"We had some guests taking risks and maybe getting a little too risky. If you had one incident where something did happen, it would be very tragic. We didn't want to wait for that to happen," park spokeswoman Jennifer Berthume said.

The park's other animals - which include antelope, buffalo and tortoises - can still roam next to cars. The other animals have always been segregated from the lions.

Before the fence, the Florida novelty park was one of two in the country that allowed cars to get up close with the lions. The other is in Winston, Ore.

[Last modified December 30, 2005, 00:56:10]

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