DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Des Moines shopping mall has announced it will close its caged animal exhibits following public outcry.
The Merle Hay Mall's chief operating officer says the bears, wolves and other animals will be moved out of the mall by Oct. 31.
The Academy of Wildlife Education exhibit was met with public backlash in June. An online petition to "stop the zoo" has gathered 74,000 signatures.
The spokeswoman says the announcement isn't connected to the backlash. She says a $14 million redevelopment of the mall will necessitate more room for larger storefronts.
The nonprofit that operates the enclosure has agreed to purchase 103 acres near Altoona for a drive-through animal park and wildlife rehabilitation facility. Organizers hope to relocate the animals to the park.