PETA protests wildlife park proposal

Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2003

HAINES (AP) -- Plans to open a wildlife park near Haines have run afoul of the world's largest animal rights organization.

Members of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals have been bombarding Haines Borough Assembly members with e-mails asking them to stop filmmaker Steve Kroschel's plans to open a 40-acre wildlife viewing park this summer.

Kroschel plans to open the park on Mosquito Lake Road about 25 miles northwest of Haines.

Norfolk, Va.-based PETA launched a membership-wide action alert about Kroschel's plans after reading a story about his plan on the internet site of the Chilkat Valley News, Haines' weekly newspaper.

Borough assembly member Chip Lende, who received 50 messages from PETA members, said he's not paying the complaints much mind.

''I haven't given it much thought,'' he told the newspaper. ''The Alaska Department of Fish and Game takes care of things like that, and I don't think the assembly is going to touch it.''

The messages largely point out PETA's view that wild animals kept in captivity are by definition abused. Marlee Grimes of Austin Texas wrote, ''The animals at this facility would have to be kept caged -- the worst possible punishment for a wild animal ... without proper diet and exercise, animals kept in captivity often become listless and prone to illness; many resort to self-mutilation to relieve boredom and stress.''

That couldn't be further from his experience, or what he has planned for the Chilkat Valley, Kroschel said.

The park he's designing will have natural habitats, large shelters, and plenty of room to roam. Besides, the animals coming to the park from Kroschel's home in Minnesota, including wolverines, wolves, lynx, coyotes, foxes, ermine, marmot and reindeer, have been raised in captivity, They are treated humanely and seek human contact, he said.

''I've been in this for 20 years, and my animals are well cared-for. They're bred and have young in captivity. I think there is lots to be said for the practice of animal husbandry.''

Kroschel, who's resume includes work on wildlife specials for National Geographic and public broadcasting, plus appearances on network television, said he's concerned PETA is painting an inaccurate picture of his record as a filmmaker and wildlife wrangler.

''I'm all about wildlife. It's sad that this group is making assumptions about my program when none of them have ever spoken with me about it or know anything about it.''

Amy Rhodes, PETA's animals in entertainment specialist, acknowledged she did not talk with Kroschel before issuing the alert to PETA's 750,000 members. But she said the group is opposed to captive holding of wild animals.

''We don't believe in captivity, and we want people in Haines to know that we won't accept this kind of attraction,'' she said.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is processing Kroschel's permit application to open the park. Permit specialist Ryan Scott said he expects to have issued permission later this spring to Kroschel to bring his menagerie into Alaska.

Meanwhile, messages from PETA members keep coming into local officials' electronic mailboxes.

Mayor Mike Case said he doesn't mind the flood of messages but he's not about to make an issue of Kroschel's plans.

''I'd like to tell them we don't care what people Outside think of what we do up here, and that we can take care of this ourselves,'' he said. ''It really doesn't take a lot of effort to delete the messages, but I've been trying to figure out how I can automatically get rid of anything that comes in with the words 'wildlife park' on it.''

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