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Lion Country Safari in Palm Beach could be sold to an animal conservationist

In this Miami Herald file photo from 2005, giraffes roam freely on the drive through Lion Country Safari.
In this Miami Herald file photo from 2005, giraffes roam freely on the drive through Lion Country Safari. Lion Country Safari

Lion Country Safari, the popular drive-through safari park in Palm Beach County, will likely be sold to an animal conservationist by the end of the year, the park confirmed Tuesday.

Marcella Leone, the founder and director of Leo Zoological Conservation Center in Greenwich, Connecticut, approached the park about a possible purchase, said spokeswoman Jennifer Berthiaume. The park expects to complete the sale to Leone by the third quarter of the year. Terms of the sale have not been released.

Lion Country Safari opened as the first “cageless” zoo in the country when it debut in 1967, featuring giraffes, rhinos and, of course, lions, roaming the park’s star attraction: a five-mile trail for cars. Located in Loxahatchee, the park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with more than 900 animals, five rides and a water playground. It’s been under the same ownership since its opening.

We look forward to the exciting opportunities for growth.

Jennifer Berthiaume, Lion Country Safari spokeswoman

Berthiaume said the new owner is looking to expand the park’s conservation and education programs, as well bringing in new species.

“We look forward to the exciting opportunities for growth,” Berthiaume said. “[Leone] is very well connected and respected in our industry and has great energy and ideas.”

Lion Country Safari was recently ranked as one of the 10 best savanna exhibits in world by Zoo Nation in a list that includes the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California and the Harambe Wildlife Preserve at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando. The park also won the 2017 Providencia Award, Palm Beach County’s highest tourism honor, awarded by its tourism marketing arm Discover The Palm Beaches.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH

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