Up to 20 pet prairie dogs are running loose on the grounds of Shamba Safari, Neshkoro, WI, according to recent visitors.
On June 20, a Shamba Safari visitor said there were black tailed prairie dogs all over the property.
“They weren’t contained and freely roamed in and out of the fences,” the visitor said. “That gives me concerns about them breeding and spreading outside the facility.”
Shamba Safari Map: Prairie dog burrows were located inside the areas circled in red. Active prairie dogs were spotted in the areas marked with blue dots.
Prairie dogs are not native to Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) lists prairie dogs as a prohibited species, banned from import into the state.
Shamba Safari is a new drive-thru roadside zoo that just opened last week. However, the location of Shamba Safari is also called R-Zoo and has housed exotic animals for decades.
For more than 20 years the property operated as a holding compound and breeding facility for exotic animals until they are sold, consigned at auction or put on display at Timbavati Wildlife Park in Wisconsin Dells.
The Neshkoro location of R-Zoo and the Wisconsin Dells location of Timbavati Wildlife Park are both licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the name Animal Entertainments. Animal Entertainments also rents out exotic animals for parties, shows, fairs and other events.
Animal Entertainments, R-Zoo and Timbavati Wildlife Park were all started by the late Mark Schoebel and his wife Alice.
Mark was no stranger to wildlife trafficking. In 1986, he was found guilty of several wildlife trafficking charges for selling bears to be killed, dismembered and shipped overseas.
Mark was also implicated in Operation Snow Plow, a federal exotic animal trafficking investigation in 1998 that led to numerous indictments for individuals who were killing and butchering tigers and leopards for their skulls, hides and other parts.
In 1996, Mark imported and sold 1,400 prairie dogs to pet stores and medical research labs, according to the book “Animal Underworld: Inside America's Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species.” Epidemiologists found some of those prairie dogs were infected with tularemia.
Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever or deer fly fever, is a highly transmissible zoonotic disease that can cause severe illness and death in humans and animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In 2003, another Wisconsin animal dealer named Mike Hoffer imported and sold 30 prairie dogs throughout Wisconsin and nearby Illinois. Some of the prairie dogs were infected with a zoonotic disease called monkeypox. A dozen people were sickened by the disease after coming into contact with the prairie dogs and several people were hospitalized.
That same year, the sale, import and display of prairie dogs was banned throughout the United States. Wisconsin also put a state-wide ban into effect.
In 2008, the federal prairie dog ban was lifted. Wisconsin’s ban now only includes a ban on importing the animals.
After Mark’s death in 2017, his wife Alice and their son Matthew took over the family's exotic animal business and earlier this month opened the drive-thru roadside zoo Shamba Safari.
The USDA has not inspected R-Zoo or Timbavati Wildlife Park since 2019 and they have never inspected Shamba Safari, according to their website.
The visitor to Shamba Safari said he saw between 10-20 prairie dogs ranging in size from baby to adult running loose. The visitor also saw "hundreds" of prairie dog burrows throughout the property.
Allowing an exotic animal to escape and roam freely is a critical USDA violation of 3.125(a) Facilities, general.
In Oct. 2020, a USDA inspector cited the roadside zoo Animal Haven Zoo with a critical violation for allowing their prairie dogs to escape. Two of the animals were completely gone and one of the animals was living in a burrow near the enclosure.
In that case, the USDA inspector noted, “Enclosures that allow animals to get out could allow injury and does not protect the animals at the facility. Ensure that enclosures are maintained in good repair to protect the animals from injury and to contain the animals.”
The prairie dogs at Shamba Safari are also at risk of being hit by a car as visitors drive through the safari.
The Shamba Safari visitor said he’s concerned about the consequences of allowing exotic animals to roam freely in Wisconsin.
“The negative ecological impact if they developed a wild population outside the safari would be massive,” he said.
Please submit a complaint to the USDA and ask that they immediately investigate Animal Entertainment's Shamba Safari and cite them for their critical Animal Welfare Act violation.
Animal Entertainments Inc
W 583 Eagle Rd
Neshkoro, WI 54960
Submit a USDA complaint: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalwelfare/complaint-form
Name: Animal Entertainments Inc
USDA license/registration number: 35-C-0367
Thank you for being a voice for the animals.