Want To Own A Zoo? Here's Your Chance - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Want To Own A Zoo? Here's Your Chance

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The owner of the Animal Kingdom Zoo in Burlington County, New Jersey says the zoo is up for sale. The owner of the Animal Kingdom Zoo in Burlington County, New Jersey says the zoo is up for sale.
SPRINGFIELD TWP., N.J. -

Always dreamed of owning a pet giraffe? Now's your chance! It's not often you get the opportunity to buy a zoo. But one is up for sale right now in Burlington County, New Jersey. It sounds like it could be a lot of fun. But this is no Matt Damon movie. The Animal Kingdom Zoo in Springfield Township has run into problems the past few years, and it may take a Hollywood ending to save it.

The moment you arrive outside the privately-owned zoo, the animals charm you. Whether it's a parrot, a peacock, or a giraffe peeking out from behind a fence, it puts a smile on your face. It can be all yours, for only $2.4 million. The owner is selling it after more than three decades. Nicol Gerber of Hamilton Township had planned to take her granddaughter to the zoo until she heard the news. "I wanted to bring her because they got giraffes, everything there. And it's great. But it's closed. The maintenance guy actually told us yesterday that they're not going to re-open it."

Not unless a new owner who wants to run a zoo steps forward soon. And that buyer would need to comply with some pretty strict regulations. "That means compliance with building code, zoning regulations, the USDA, which regulates animal safety, the DEP of New Jersey," Springfield Township Mayor Denis McDaniel outlined for Fox 29. Animal Kingdom does have a troubled history: 50 violations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year alone. Back in 2011, two separate fires killed the owner's wife and several animals. Nonetheless, the owner, Burton Sipp, says he did find a buyer who wanted to expand the zoo. But township officials wouldn't go for it. "Jacksonville is a small hamlet," Mayor McDaniel explained. "So something out of scale that's too large would not be appropriate there. That's why there are restrictions on the size of the zoo."

The owner told Fox 29 he's already selling off the animals. Unless another buyer steps forward soon, the zoo will cease to exist. For longtime residents who visited there as children, and then brought their own children, it's a sad but growing possibility. "It'd be sad but, seems the way things are going nowadays, lots of good things are going to the side, you know?" former zoo visitor Frank Massena said.

The owner said he decided to sell because he's focusing on his horse business. As for finding a buyer who will keep the zoo running, the odds are long because banks will finance the purchase of the property only, not for the purchase of the animals as well.

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