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Mayor Forbids Zoo to Sell Animals to Suspect Dealers

January 27, 1990|JANE FRITSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mayor Tom Bradley on Friday ordered the Los Angeles Zoo to stop doing business with two animal traders who allegedly have been selling zoo animals to private game farms, where they are shot by hunters.

The dealers, Earl Tatum and Jim Fouts, were the subject of a report on the "60 Minutes" television show last week.

The American Assn. of Zoological Parks and Aquariums has since begun an inquiry to determine what happens to surplus zoo animals.

The "60 Minutes" report focused on the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, but Warren Thomas, director of the Los Angeles Zoo, said Friday his staff has dealt with both Tatum and Fouts.

Thomas said the Los Angeles Zoo will comply with the mayor's order and cease all dealing with the two until after the parks association completes its investigation.

The Los Angeles Zoo has used Fouts frequently to transport a variety of animals to other zoos, Thomas said.

"To the best of our knowledge, he has always been very reputable," Thomas said. "When people apply to us for animals, we investigate them. . . . We use whatever sources we have available to check these people."

The zoo has done little business with Tatum, Thomas said. "We've only sold Earl Tatum one small group of animals in two years," he said, small antelope called "duikers."

Thomas said he believed the duikers went to the zoo in Baton Rouge, La. It is "blatantly unacceptable," Thomas said, to sell surplus animals to game farms where they may be shot by hunters.

Attempts to reach Tatum and Fouts for comment Friday were unsuccessful.

In a letter to Thomas on Friday, Bradley said he is "very concerned that we not support any individual or business when serious doubts have been raised about their professional abilities." Lisa Landres, an investigator for the Humane Society of the United States, said Friday there are numerous private animal dealers who sell zoo animals to hunting ranches.

"It is a disgusting fact that zoos are irresponsible in overbreeding these animals," Landres said.

"When baby animals grow up, they become excess, and animal dealers serve as an out for the zoos," Landres said. "They close their eyes. Zoos definitely use animal dealers as an out to get rid of surplus animals."

Landres is a former elephant handler at the San Diego Zoo.

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