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April 23, 2014

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Federal inspectors at Las Vegas zoo after complaint

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Leila Navidi

A sign points to various exhibits at the Southern Nevada Zoological-Botanical Park in Las Vegas.

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Inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture visited the Southern Nevada Zoological Botanical Park today in response to a complaint from a member of the public, agency officials confirmed.

The zoo was closed to the public today.

Inspectors from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection service paid a visit to the facility on Rancho Drive near Vegas Drive, spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said, but the nature of the complaint was not immediately disclosed.

Zoo officials, including Director Pat Dingle, could not be immediately reached for comment, but an employee at the facility who answered the phone confirmed the closure. The decision to close the zoo was not made by the USDA, Espinosa said.

An inspection on June 27 found a handful of violations, most regarding protecting animals from extreme heat. That week, temperatures in the valley topped 110 degrees.

The inspection found that little shade was provided for a group of apes, and a pool meant for cooling “was shallow, with several inches of water, and was located directly in the sun.”

The report went on to cite problems with the amount of shade provided to wallabies, a fossa and several agoutis. The report says a cougar was seen panting and pacing in its enclosure, and several of the animal pens had ambient temperatures well over 100 degrees.

Inspectors returned on June 29 and 30, as zoo staff made changes to the enclosures to protect the animals from heat exposure. The June 30 inspections report indicates all of the problems were addressed and the zoo was in compliance.

In December, a USDA inspection found the food preparation area and bins for food storage in disrepair. And in June 2012, the zoo was cited for not keeping adequate training and records logs for its employees.

The inspectors typically take a few days to finish their report, Espinosa said, and then the zoo would have 21 days to appeal the findings. After that, the inspection report is made public.

The zoo is home to a family of Barbary apes, wallabies and other animals, in addition to botanical displays. There are 29 animals housed at the facility, down from 42 in June 2012, according to USDA inspection reports.

The zoo is operated by the non-profit Nevada Zoological Foundation, which in 2010, according to tax filings, had revenues of $327,783 and expenditures of $375,232.

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