All facts from reliable sources; pictures from various sources. Dates given for each photo unless unknown.
Lion Country Safari
The Lion Country Safari, a brand new section of the Kings Island amusement park, opened on April 27, 1974. The area featured various attractions, including multiple small animal exhibits, a restaurant (today's Stunt Crew Grill), a gift shop and a large monorail.
1974 overview of the new area.
The highly themed entrance to the new area of the park. 1974.
The entire animal preserve encompassed 100 acres (three times the land that The Beast occupies) and was the result of a year's work and a $5.5 million investment. According to an online inflation calculator, that would be approximately $23.7 million in 2009- more than the cost of Diamondback ($22 million).
According to a 1974 news article in The Bryan Times, the animals planned for opening year of the attraction were:
-1 cape buffalo
-75 "critters"- monkeys, swans, exotic birds, etc.
The main attraction was the two-mile monorail, otherwise known as Kenya Safari. It was an attempt at a new style of the hugely popular "drive-in zoos" scattered around the country. It was created by Lion Country Safari, Inc. and was their first attraction to utilize a monorail instead of guests' cars. This was due to various injuries and incidents involving automobiles and animals. The six trains were fully enclosed and powered by electricity. They ran on rubber wheels, reaching speeds of roughly six miles per an hour. This allowed for a 20-25 minute ride.
Exit on the left, entrance to the right. The queue snaked under the monorail track and guests boarded the trains on the opposite side of the station. 1974.
The monorail passing over the queue line. 1974.
Guests prior to loading the monorail. 1974.
A guide narrated the trip and was able to stop the train at any given point, giving riders an extended look at any of the sites. The monorail's layout kept most animals within easy viewing distance of passengers aboard the monorail.
Postcard of the new attraction. 1974.
The monorail was different from most other Kings Island attractions in the fact it was an upcharge attraction and featured an additional admittance fee, despite its estimated hourly capacity of 2,000 guests. It is believed that the 1974 price was $.50, but it may have been free during the attraction's opening year.
This here is the product of too-much time... the white line is the pathway the monorail followed laid over a 2010 overview of the park (courtesy of Google). The animals were divided into three sections- Large Animals, Lions and Grazing Animals.
The three sections were divided by nine-foot high chain-link fences. The majority of these barriers were hidden via hills and trees in order to create the illusion that visitors were actually in Africa. This also kept the animals within a designated area and prevented them from escaping. The lion section featured additional security measures- a fourteen-foot high fence and another six-foot high fence within that. The monorail track itself also acted as a security measure- a slight electric current ran through it, discouraging animals from utilizing it as an escape route.
Example of large fences that surrounded the areas. Date uknown.
Double fences in lion exhibit. 1975.
Despite the security measures in place, multiple incidents occurred within the Lion Country Safari during its twenty year run. The first of these occurred in June 1974. A storm knocked out the park's power, killing the monorail track's electric charge. This allowed a female lion to cross the track and jump off into a buffer compound. She spent the next two days in this area before Chief Zoologist Milt Tennant was able to shoot the 150-pound lion with a tranquilizing dart. By this point in time the lion was dehydrated and had apparently not eaten.
The attraction's first year proved successful, attracting a large share of guests. The animals also adapted well to the Ohio climate. A large share of the animals breded opening year, producing twenty-four lion cubs and various zebras, antelopes, sheep and oxes. The Lion Country Safari remained open through weekends in November before closing for new construction during the winter.
1975 overview of area.
Photo spot in area. 1975.
The Lion Country Safari area expanded in 1975 with a new show called "Fowl Play". Four African cheetahs and 25 antelopes of various species were also added.
The same year, a nine-month-old lion attacked a thirteen-month-old girl. Trainer Steve Clark was at a bank with the leashed animal when the young girl approached it. The lion grabbed the head of the girl in its mouth. Clark quickly pulled back on the leash and the lion released the girl. Neither were harmed.
1976 proved a very memorable year for the Lion Country Safari for multiple reasons. The first was an extensive landscape renovation. All grassy areas were reseeded and much of the underbrush was cleared, according to a 1976 article in The Daily Sentinel. The same article reports that the upcharge cost for the monorail was $.50.
The Lion Country Safari also planned to add more animals in 1976 with the addition of 13 Bengal tigers and 50 Olive baboons. The baboons were planned to be added into the same section as the lions, since the two species lived together in their natural habitat. The tigers were planned to received their own new area, although one baby tiger (a two-month old cub) would be displayed in the Lion Country Safari nursery.
Ten days before Lion Country Safari opened for its third season, however, all fifty baboons escaped from their enclosure on April 14. 49 remained within sight of the compound while one left park property. Park and safari management were left in a "baboon standoff" in their trivial attempt to round the baboons up. 30 of the apes were lured back into the compound with fruit, but the 19 others remained outside the enclosure. However, in an attempt to keep the baboons in the area, the thirty caught primates were re-released. According to park publicist Dan Edwards, "We were afraid the ones inside might send out distress signals to the others and they would panic and run away."
The baboons were kept interested and fed with fruit. Eventually it was decided to "spike" the fruit with sleep-inducing tranquilizers, allowing safari workers to round-up the drugged primates. It was also determined at this time that the primates would not be featured in the attraction for 1976. According to park spokesman Dan Alyward, "Their show business career is over. They bowed out with their 'Great Escape'. We do not plan to put them back on display." Come opening day, twelve baboons had still avoided capture. Despite the baboons' removal, the 13 Bengal tigers were added as planned.
1976 also showcased the park's and the safari's first death. 20-year-old safari ranger John McCann was mauled by a lion on Saturday, July 24. He was found shortly after 1pm by his coworkers when he had failed to answer a radio call. He was about 20-feet away from his safari vehicle, where he had left both his radio and shot gun. He was declared dead at the scene.
The winter before the 1977 season showed more lion cub births. Various park employees (not just safari workers) were permitted to take-home the baby cubs, feeding and caring for the animals.
1977 overview of the area.
Various North American animals were added to the preserve in 1977. This included bison, elk and white-tailed deer. With over 250 animals total, native to three different continents, the area became known around this time as "Wild Animal Safari". The price for the monorail was also raised to $.75.
New name of area. Date unknown.
A new roller coaster was added to the area 1977. Known as the Screamin' Demon, it was the park's first and only looping roller coaster at the time. It was built over the former "Monkey Island" segment of Wild Animal Safari and over a segment of the monorail. The monorail trains would now pass between Screamin' Demon supports.
Screamin' Demon roller coaster. 1977.
Like all years prior, 1978 showed even more new animals to the Wild Animal Safari. Fifteen blackfooted penguins, nine vultures and six crowned cranes were all added. The blackfooted penguins were added to an island in the Africa section, the vultures to the preserve and the cranes near the entrance to the Wild Animal Safari. The Nairobi Nursery also featured an assortment of reptiles and newborn animals.
1978 showed a sponsorship from Encyclopedia Britannica. The cost to ride the monorail also rose to $1.
Two penguins, valued at $1,500 each, escaped from Kings Island in September and made it as far as Loveland. One was successfully captured and returned five days later, but its companion was struck and killed by a car in Foster, Ohio.
A fire swept through a barn and killed two hartebeest, two addax and one scimitarhorned onyx. The total damage done was estimated to be worth $65,000.
Twelve Eastern Brown pelicans were donated to the safari in 1979 by the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, Indian Shores, Florida. Two Chapman zebras, a female giraffe, an Addax and four African Blackfooted penguins were also born at the preserve during the winter. Camels were also added. This brought the total number of animals to over 400 of 16 different varieties and 75 species.
It's estimated in a news article within The Bryan Times that one-million people visited the safari annually, making it one of Kings Island's most popular and successful attractions.
Kings Island was fined $560 after Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it did not remove possible hazards to employees tending wild animals within the safari. Citations included that employees were required to go into cages and clean while the animals were still present and that there would be no escape from the elephant barns if the elephants became unruly. A park spokesperson said modifications would be made to the animal areas.
The ticket price for the monorail remained at $1.
Kings Island began a surrogate-mother project in coordinance with Cincinnati Zoo, the Knoxville, Tennessee zoo and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
A tiger embryo was surgically removed from a low productive potential tiger nicknamed "Mora" and implanted into a lion nicknamed "Brenda" on February 27. The procedure involved relatively new techniques like super-ovulating the tiger through hormone therapy to boost chances of conception, according to an article in the Observer-Reporter. Despite the planning involved, the project was not a success.
The Cincinnati Wildlife Federation was formed in April 1981 between Cincinnati Zoo, Wild Animal Safari and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
A steel drum band named the Caribbean Serenaders was also added to the Wild Animal Safari amphitheater from May 30 to August 30. A bird trainer and medicine man also performed int he Wild Animal Safari.
1981 overview of area.
Timberwolf, a $450,000 facility with 10,000 seats, was added to the Wild Animal Safari section of the park. It opened July 9 with the appearance of Air Supply. Other acts opening year were Oak Ride Boys, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Due to its loud noise, the Screamin' Demon roller coaster had to be closed during concerts.
A petting zoo with pygmy goats, sheep and ducks was also added the area.
Petting zoo. 1984.
A park employee was attacked by a lion on May 26, 1982 while cleaning the lion's compound. 34-year-old Terry Raitt suffered a punctured trachea and body cuts. He managed to climb onto the roof of a building before being treated by paramedics and taken to Bethesda North Hospital, where he was in critical condition. In August, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ruled that the mauling was due to human error and that there were no safety violations. Instead, the incident was due to "human judgement". Raitt admitted to accidentally leaving the gate open, allowing the lion to enter the same area. Park manager Bill Mefford said "He [Raitt] had already signed a statement that his actions were a misjudgement." Due to the event, OSHA recommended that rangers be armed with handguns, alongside the pre-existing shotguns in the jeeps.
The Wild Animal Safari monorail was renamed The Wild Animal Habitat and the entertainment side of the area was renamed Adventure Village.
Postcard with new name of area. Date unknown.
Various other new changes and additions also occurred, including new exhibits in the monorail station. These included rare black leopards from Africa and snow leopards from Asia, two-toed sloths, prehensile tailed porcupines, macaws from South America, Chilean flamingos and South African penguins.
Flamingos behind the monorail station. Date unnkown.
A fourth section was also added to the preserve, featuring exotic animals from South America. These included guanacos, capybaras, rheas and blackneck swans.
The small islands in the Adventure Village lake now featured South American spider monkeys. Adjacent to the lake was an animal collection that included golden lion tamarin, brown-headed tamarin and ring-tailed lemurs.
South American spider monkeys on the Adventure Village lake. 1984.
The petting zoo, added in 1982, was expanded with pigs and other animals.
1983 was apparently the final year for elephant rides (I do not know when they were added.)
Elephant rides. Date unknown.
1984-1987 overview of the area.
King Cobra, marketed as United State's first stand-up looping roller coaster, was added to Adventure Village at a cost of $3-million. The monorail passed the roller coaster.
King Cobra roller coaster. 1987.
The attraction was temporarily closed in August when a metal wheel spindle broke on one of the cars, injuring eight guests.
An African antelope, acting as a surrogate mother, gave birth to a baby of rare antelope species after an embryo transplant at Cincinnati Zoo, according to an article in the Deseret News. The birth was the first of its kind and was a joint effort by The Cincinnati Wildlife Federation.
1984-1987 overview of the area.
Research and experimentation continued amongst the Cincinnati Wildlife Federation.
1986-1987 overview of area.
A new scimitar horned ox, nicknamed Dixie, was born to an endangered African antelope species in March.
1987 overview of the area.
A one-pound spider monkey was born on the reserve on March 14.
A pair of giant anteaters from South America was added near the monorail station.
Following what was believed to be the first non-surgical transfer of a fresh embryo from an endangered species of an exotic animal to a domestic animal resulted in a Holstein cow giving birth to a male gaur calf on May 25. The project begun in late July 1986.
With the Vortex, a six-inversion roller coaster, having opened in the Coney Mall section of the park in 1987, the park's Demon roller coaster (formerly known as Screamin' Demon) quickly became outdated. Therefore, towards the end of the season, a sign appeared nearby announcing a new family attraction in 1988.
Demon with edge of teaser sign. 1987.
Amazon Falls, a shoot-the-chutes style attraction, replaced Demon. The attraction cost nearly $2-million.
Amazon Falls sign and attraction. Date unknown.
Section of safari. 1988.
During the park's seventh annual Winterfest event, various animals from the Wild Animal Habitat were featured in a live nativity scene. This may have been done in past years, however.
1988-1990 overview of area.
In cooperation with seven other zoos, Kings Island planned to turn 9,000 acres of reclaimed strip-mine land in Muskingum County in southeastern Ohio into a preserve for African animals.
Animal rights proponent Cleverland Amory charged that an elephant at Kings Island died in March because of human abuse. Kings island denied the charge and said an autopsy showed it had died from natural causes.
Winterfest's live nativity scene again featured animals from the Wild Animal Habitat.
Two female red wolf pups were sent to Wild Animal Habitat to launch a new red wolf program.
1991 overview of the area.
1991-1992 overview of the area.
Adventure Express, a family oriented roller coaster, was added to the side of Adventure Village. The monorail now passed both over and under the roller coaster (above- right before first tunnel; under- end of second lift-hill).
A female zebra nicknamed Winnie was born on December 8.
Adventure Express roller coaster. 1991.
Paramount Pictures purchased Kings Island.
Video of area and monorail, 1992
1993 overview of the area.
Top Gun, a new Arrow dynamics roller coaster, was added into Adventure Village. It passed the monorail.
Top Gun roller coaster. Date unknown.
By this point in time, the monorail was an additional $2 to ride.
In November, the park announced that it is closing the 100-acre Wild Animal Habitat and would use the land for movie-related attractions. Park spokeswomen Carolyn Boos said "This will allow us to direct our energy and resources to our main focus of providing attractions that bring Paramount movie, television and publishing intellectual properties to life." Animals were sent to other zoos around the country, including Cincinnati Zoo.
The monorail was removed, the station deconstructed and the animals shipped out of the park. After twenty-years, the attraction was now gone.
A pathway was built directly through the former spot of the monorail's station. This more easily linked the center of Adventure Village to the Top Gun roller coaster.
Drop Zone, now known as Xtreme Skyflyer, was built on a piece of land formerly occupied by the monorail station.
Flight of Fear, an indoor roller coaster, opened on a segment of the former safari land.
XS Raceway, now known as Thunder Alley, opened on a segment of the former safari land.
The trains and transfer track, which had sat idle on park property since the attraction's closure, were relocated to Jungle Jim's store. For more information, check out the interesting KICentrl article HERE.
Son of Beast, at the time the world's tallest, fastest and only looping wooden roller coaster, opened on a segment of the former safari land.
Firehawk, a recycled roller coaster from Geauga Lake amusement park, opened on a segment of the former safari land.
The monorail's maintenance shed was re-purposed at some point in time following the attraction's closure. It is now used for other park maintenance.
Various barns, sheds and ponds, all remnants from the attraction, remain on park property.
So yeah. That's all the result of too much time and a mostly-open weekend. I kinda feel like the ending was anti-climatic or what-not... meh. Anyhow, hopefully it was interesting to anybody who bothered to read through it, or at least look at the pictures... yeah