Troubled zoo moves forward

Troubled zoo moves forward

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

World Wildlife Kingdom, a zoological park being developed in Cherry Valley, received clearance by the attorney general’s office Aug. 31 following a 10-month investigation into possible financial wrongdoing.

Dan Anders, spokesman for the attorney general’s office in Chicago, refused to divulge details. “We’re just stating that they’re in good standing with our office,” he said.

Ryan Cole, president of World Wildlife Kingdom, said the attorney general’s office investigated after receiving a complaint that the nonprofit entity was obtaining profits.

“They came and visited,” Cole stated. “They interviewed different staff. All of our records, all of our files, start to finish.” Cole said the zoo put on hold large plans during the investigation. “The next step will be to resolve any pledges or commitments that we were working on; to continue to bring in any commercial partners. We’re very excited that we can move the project forward. I’m happy that the attorney general’s office has given us full clearance.”

However, the local animal rights group, Animal Watch, Inc., remains leery of the zoological park.

“He’s been cleared of the charges—it’s separate from the animal issue that we’re concerned with,” said John Duerk, spokesman for Animal Watch, Inc. “Even if there isn’t any wrongdoing on his behalf, we have a great concern about his financial position in the future and how that would affect the animals.”

He questions whether Cole will have the money to build facilities large enough to accommodate the animals. He also wonders whether there will be enough money for food and proper bedding. In the past, the park has been tainted by USDA reports of improper care of animals. Cole said that when the USDA visits, problems are fixed soon after the zoological park is cited.

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