The Catskill Game Farm was a zoo in Catskill, New York that was open for 73 years until closing on October 9, 2006. The game farm was both a zoo and a hands-on farm, where children could feet and pet animals. It closed due to declining attendance, financial troubles and a new state regulation applied to an attraction at the Catskill Game Farm, a water play area called a "Splash Pad." Though the splash pad at the Catskill Zoo was functioning properly, another one in the area was not, leading to the new regulations.
The zoo was founded in 1933 by Roland Lindemann. It opened with just a few farm animals, including donkeys, deer, goats and sheep. It was officially recognized as a zoo in 1958 by the United States Department of Agriculture. Lindemann's daughter, Kathie Schultz, still owned and operated the Catskill Game Farm at the time of its closing.
At its peak, the zoo occupied over 1,000 acres. It featured about 2,000 animals from over 150 species and various parts of the world. The big question at the time of the Catskill Game Farm closing was where all of these 2,000 animals would go. Animal rights activists became especially concerned about the destinations of these exotic and domestic creatures.
Most of the animals from the Catskill Game Farm were sold in an open auction on 18 October 2006. Activists were concerned that some of the exotic animals sold would be used in what is known as a "canned hunt," where these animals are control-released in a restricted area and then hunted for sport. Best Friends, an animal rights coalition, organized a "compassionate bidding effort" that day and was able to purchase 200 animals that are now safely living in sanctuaries.
According to a press release from Best Friends, a warthog named Louise purchased for $9,000 US Dollars (USD) was the most expensive animal sold at the auction. Other animals sold included "two white rhinos, four vervet monkeys, several aoudads, nilgai, a European boar, a warthog, pygmy donkeys, llamas, pot-bellied pigs, rabbits, ducks and pigeons." The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) supervised the auction but were concerned that some animals were sold to unlicensed dealers that may have been associated with canned hunts.
Many of the machinery, rides and attractions part of the Catskill Game Farm were also auctioned off, though the land was not. This Catskill, New York zoo is not the only zoo closing -- others are frequently following suit, due in large part to declining attendance and pressure from animal rights groups such as Best Friends or the HSUS. Many people enjoyed visiting zoos as children, but this family pastime is slowly becoming more difficult to find.