Missing Animals, Deaths Unreported by Local Exotic-Animal Dealers Lead to DNR Citations

For Immediate Release:
May 1, 2023

David Perle 202-483-7382

Wisconsin Dells, Wis. – According to records just obtained by PETA, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently slapped Matt and Alice Schoebel—exotic-animal dealers who own local roadside zoo Timbavati Wildlife Park and nearby Shamba Safari—with three citations for years of shoddy and inaccurate recordkeeping, including failure to report the deaths of multiple animals.

The citations follow PETA’s complaint to the DNR, which provided evidence that the dealers regularly submitted required quarterly and annual reports months late or not at all and that they often contained errors, were missing crucial information, and didn’t properly disclose activities they were required to report, including transfers and sales of black bears and cougars and deaths of black bears, cougars, bobcats, gray foxes, and skunks. The reports also contained numerous instances of missing details on sales, transfers, and deaths of animals, as well as evidence suggesting that animals had mysteriously disappeared between reports and remain unaccounted for.

“These roadside zoo profiteers have repeatedly shown that they’re unable even to keep track of the animals at their facilities, making it impossible to know how many have died or gone missing under their watch,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Welfare Debbie Metzler. “PETA urges everyone to stay away from Timbavati, Shamba, and other seedy roadside zoos that exploit animals for a buck.”

Reports submitted to the DNR also show that multiple animals had died of “unknown” causes, including two black bear cubs and a fisher, an adult cougar whose cause of death was listed by the owners as “breeding aggression,” and a bobcat their granddaughter was keeping as a “pet.”

For years, the Schoebels have been brokering deals between breeders and roadside zoos—such as Michigan-based Oswald’s Bear Ranch—for the cruel cub-petting industry, which tears weeks-old bear cubs from their mothers, trucks them across state lines, and forces them to endure photo ops that leave them with lifelong psychological and physical damage. Oswald’s has a long history of federal Animal Welfare Act violations that include premature cub deaths, physical abuse of bears, inappropriate diets containing restaurant scraps and dog food, inadequate enclosures that have allowed bears to escape, and lying to inspectors.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information about PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind