West Palm Beach Point of Interest: Lion Country Safari
Loxahatchee (near West Palm Beach) is home to the Lion Country Safari, a drive-through safari and walk-through entertainment park. Since its inception in 1967, it has been hailed as the first U.S. “cageless zoo”.
Lion Country was ranked as the 3rd greatest zoo in the country by the readers of the USA Travel Guide in 2009.
Lion Country Safari, created by a group of businessmen, became a destination for families looking to go on a safari in Africa. South Florida was the perfect site for the park due to its mild year-round temperature.
There was an Everglade Express small gauge train in the park at one time. Lion Country Safari’s designers drew inspiration from Jack Murphy Stadium while planning the landscape of the safari park. The Crown Metal Products 4-4-0 locomotive was finally retired and placed on static display in its place. The locomotive was then loaned to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami before being purchased and fully restored by the Veterans Memorial Railroad in Bristol, Florida’s Veterans Memorial Park. It’s still running on the railroad today.
Currently, the original Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach is the only location still operating.
The original park in Florida has over a thousand species spread out across seven parts of the 4-mile preserve and the 33-acre Amusement Park.
Those who purchase a ticket can enter the park in their own car (no convertibles or soft tops), driving gently and at their own leisure to see the animals while listening to an audiotape or CD with recorded commentary. Many of the animals, including giraffes, southern white rhinoceroses, and zebras, are permitted to roam freely around the park, even crossing the road in front of cars. Some animals, like lions and chimpanzees, are kept apart from the rest of the herd by walls or water barriers.
Guests are cautioned to drive slowly and cautiously, to avoid stopping too near to animals, and not to open their vehicle’s doors or windows. In 2005, guests ignored warnings and opened their vehicle doors, causing the lions’ ability to freely wander with automobiles to be one of the park’s initial attractions. The lions are now isolated from visitors by a barrier around the road.
The chimpanzee display is one of the most distinctive features of Lion Country Safari. The chimps are housed on an island system, and they migrate to a new island every day, just like chimpanzees do in the wild. The chimps are grouped together in socially complicated groups, much like they would in the wild. As a result, Lion Country Safari has shown to be beneficial to chimp behavior researchers. Little Mama, a chimpanzee that was born in 1938 and died in 2017 from renal disease, was the oldest known living chimpanzee.