Twenty-nine animals died at or en route to Disney's new Animal Kingdom, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report obtained by The Associated Press. Disney had acknowledged 12 deaths.
Animal deaths at the $800 million theme park are always worth announcing to the public, Disney spokeswoman Diane Ledder said Wednesday. She said the company only made the significant deaths public."We don't make a practice of informing the media every time an animal dies at our facilities or by the same token when one is born," Ledder said. "It's not practical. Animals are born and they die. It's a fact of life and the numbers change."
Four cheetah cubs, two rhinos, two hippos and four other animals of Disney's Animal Kingdom died.
The USDA report said officials found no wrongdoing by Disney in a three-week investigation before the park opened April 22. It praised Animal Kingdom's staff for being "highly professional, caring, motivated and enthusiastic."
The report said several types of antelope and gazelles, a litter of five chinchilla rabbits and a Guinea hog also perished. The causes ranged from maternal neglect to fights between animals trying to establish territory or dominance.
It said two otters died when they ate seeds from a loquat tree. Disney said the seeds were toxic but that handlers thought the otters wouldn't eat them. The report said the deaths of the otters may have been due to "professional error" but didn't violate the Animal Welfare Act.