It’s the happiest time of the year — except for the animals at Santa’s Enchanted Forest. At least that's what a group of animal activists planning a protest against the venerable holiday theme park says.
They believe Santa’s Enchanted Forest, which bills itself as the “world’s largest holiday theme park,” abuses animals it uses for its performances every year. That's why the activists are planning a protest Saturday by the entrance of Tropical Park, the home of the theme park.
The animal advocates plan to hand out flyers to passersby and hold up handmade posters to deter potential customers from buying tickets.
“This year features a tiger show, sea lion ‘spectacular,’ and other wild animal performances. These animals are forced to live in small cages and travel long distances to perform at attractions like Santa’s Enchanted Forest. The stress of captivity, public display, and travel is harmful to them," says Wendy King, one of the organizers of the upcoming demonstration. “Despite criticism over the years, Santa's Enchanted Forest continues to include exotic animal shows as part of its holiday-themed carnival.”
Santa's Enchanted Forest didn't respond to multiple calls from New Times; a voicemail inbox at the park is full.
King and her fellow activists say there is no excuse for the iconic local theme park to use the animals when there are already dozens of carnival rides for park goers to enjoy.
“The holidays are a time to celebrate and be with family. Families can still have a great time at Santa's Enchanted Forest without watching circus style exotic animal performances,” she said. "Santa's Enchanted Forest has great light displays, rides and other things to do so I really don't think the business will suffer if they nix the animal acts."
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In addition to the protest, King has also created a petition to urge Brian Shechtman, the owner of Santa's Enchanted Forest, to cease using exotic animals for entertainment purposes. More than 200 people have already signed the petition.
"I want to see these exotic animals in their natural habitats, not in a cage or a tiny pool!" said King. "Animals are not born to entertain us and there is nothing educational about watching tigers jump up and down and from one