Last year dozens of animal-rights activists held signs in front of Santa's Enchanted Forest to protest the Christmas-themed park's use of exotic animals in shows. One of their targets was tigers that performed in pens while cotton-candy-eating guests watched from aluminum bleachers. "I want to see these exotic animals in their natural habitats," Wendy King, the organizer of the demonstrations, told New Times last November.
At the close of last year's event, executives from Santa's Enchanted Forest (which is located in Miami's Tropical Park and draws tens of thousands of visitors each Yule season) mulled over whether they would continue to include the increasingly controversial tiger show, which the park had showcased for years.
While the park's management thought over their next move, the ringleader of the tiger show, Felicia Frisco, defended the big cats performance, saying that it helped educate passersby. "When people see our show, they learn a lot," she said. "I always get people coming up to me after the show telling me they had no idea how... [close the tigers are] to becoming extinct."
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But King was not convinced. "Animals are not born to entertain us, and there is nothing educational about watching tigers jump up and down and from one stool to another," she said, hoping the tiger performances would be brought to an end in 2016. Now King and her fellow activists have gotten their wish.
Santa's Enchanted Forest employees publicly announced that the park's management decided to retire the tiger show. "Santa's has decided not to bring back the tiger show," a park representative told New Times. "We appreciate all concerns against animal cruelty." King says she is elated with the decision. "We are beyond thrilled that Santa's Enchanted Forest has taken a huge leap forward by no longer including tiger shows this season," she said. However, Santa's is not discontinuing all of their animal show performances. "Santa's does not support animal abuse, and all animals that are part of the event are reviewed carefully to assure they are treated humanely," relayed the park's management in a statement. With that in mind, King has planned to protest the park again this year.
She argues that Santa's Enchanted Forest, which opens today, can nix all the animal acts without its business suffering because the park has "great light displays, rides, and other things." Her group's first demonstration is planned for Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. "We continue to urge them to go animal-free this year and beyond," King said.