USDA penalizes Promised Land Zoo following shooting death of baboon

·3 min read

Correction: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect tally of prior "critical" violations at Promised Land Zoo and has been updated.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently issued a non-compliance violation to a Branson zoo following the June 22 shooting death of an olive baboon.

Promised Land Zoo was given a "critical" evaluation after the USDA's inspection of an enclosure, which was left unlocked and led to the escape of two baboons.

One of the animals was recovered, but the other — a male fixture at the zoo named Tooki, according to several sources — was killed after it bit an employee.

The monkey was shot by Promised Land owner Jeff Sanders after it was found in a wooded area of the zoo, according to a police report.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an arm of the USDA, inspected the zoo and investigated the shooting.

More: Police report offers details about escaped baboon killed at Promised Land Zoo in Branson

Promised Land received no adverse USDA marks for euthanizing the baboon, which zoo officials deemed dangerous after biting the employee, but were cited for circumstances leading to its escape.

Promised Land Zoo is a wildlife park in Branson.
Promised Land Zoo is a wildlife park in Branson.

According to the APHIS report, an employee "neglected to close the throw latch on the interior door or to engage the lock on the doorknob, allowing the baboon to enter the keepers' work area after the manager left. Entry through the exterior door is via a digital keypad on the outside, but does not lock from the inside. Therefore, the baboon was able to open the exterior door and leave the enclosure. Unsecured primary enclosures can allow animals to escape, become injured, and/or injure other animals or humans."

The baboon tested negative for rabies, according to the zoo, and the employee returned to work the next day with two stitches.

Critical noncompliance is defined by the USDA  as "having a serious or severe adverse effect on the health and well-being of an animal."

Photos: Promised Land Zoo in Branson

Promised Land added a throw latch so the enclosure cannot be opened from the inside, according to APHIS.

Attempts to reach Promised Land management and its attorneys at Calvary Group for comment about USDA's ruling were unsuccessful.

In a July 28 written statement to the News-Leader, the zoo's manager, Laura Sanders-Remenar, said the baboon was "humanely euthanized in accordance with State Law and our approved program of veterinary care."

A file photo of an olive baboon, similar to the one killed at Promised Land Zoo in Branson.
A file photo of an olive baboon, similar to the one killed at Promised Land Zoo in Branson.

No charges were filed for the discharge in city limits. Branson police, which responded to the incident, sent a notification to the USDA, which oversees zoo incidents.

The baboons escaped around 11 a.m. during zoo hours, prompting a shutdown of the park and the aid of local law enforcement.

More: Promised Land Zoo in Branson getting seven times bigger, adding giraffes

Promised Land, a roadside zoo that opened in 2013, has had more than a dozen mandated USDA inspections since its inception. This was the second time it has received a "critical" violation, but it did not receive a fine.

In 2018, a New Guinea singing dog escaped an unsealed enclosure. The dog went on to kill a one-year-old red kangaroo, resulting in a violation.

Sanders-Remenar said in July she expected the death of the baboon, which appeared to have been shot in the head in a photo taken by police, to evoke reaction from "animal rights activists who are anti-zoo, anti-faith-based business, animal ownership and anti-Branson."

Dozens of comments on social media were critical of the zoo's decision to kill the animal in lieu of tranquilizing. Others defended the zoo's decision, citing the potential danger of the aggressive baboon.

Sanders-Remenar, who also owns "Fare Game: Southwest Missouri’s premier spot for licensed exotic meat & Eagle Rock Exotics," said in a Branson community Facebook thread that rabies testing required the animal to be killed.

The News-Leader attempted to reach several former Promised Land Zoo employees with questions but they said they couldn't comment, citing a non-disclosure agreement.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: USDA penalizes Promised Land Zoo after shooting death of baboon