Tanganyika Wildlife Park may not be the same if USDA changes rules

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GODDARD, Kan. (KWCH) Tanganyika Wildlife Park offers a different kind of zoo experience. It lets you get up close to the animals.

The park said animal rights groups don't like it and are pushing the federal government to make changes.

"Part of our mission is to strengthen the connection between people in the natural world, and we do that by providing real experiences that are entertaining and educational," said Matt Fouts, the assistant director at the park.

They even let you feed the animals.

Fouts said animal rights groups want to ban contact with some of the animals.

If the USDA changes the rules, people may not be able to feed the animals.

Animal rights groups started a petition to prohibit public contact with big cats, bears and non-human primates.

Fouts said if the USDA adopts the new rules, the park would have to close its lemur island, where people can feed them.

"It could very well dramatically impact us in whether we get to stay open or offer exhibits like this," said Fouts.

Fouts said he hopes the USDA won't change the rules.

"What we're asking right now is for the public to go on by tomorrow, to go to the website that we shared on our Facebook page and encourage them to share their comments, to share their stories," said Fouts.

Fouts said the rules would also restrict them from pulling baby "big" cats from their mothers. He said pulling the babies is key to breeding success.

"In regards to the cubs, we are the most successful zoo in the entire country and one of the most successful zoos in the world at breeding rare and endangered cats, and so we have more babies born here than anywhere else," said Fouts. "A big part of that has to do with the fact that we are able to pull them from their mothers."

The animal rights groups are concerned about the safety of visitors and big animals. They also worry about the welfare of the animal.

If the USDA decides to regulate these zoos, we don't know how soon that could happen, but public comment ends tomorrow.

Here is a link to the petition by the animal rights groups: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=APHIS-2012-0107-15341

Here is a link to the page set up by Tanganyika Wildlife Park: http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=a97c83325fa54b853ea3359d5&id=4fa02fb366