Lions, Tigers and… Runaway Baboons?

The Cricket Hollow Zoo in Manchester, Iowa is run by Pamela and Tom Sellner and it seems like a nice, small-town zoo. Their website claims that they have over 300 animals, each with their own name and story, and that the goal of the zoo is to “educate people about the many species of animals that we have here and to learn respect for these wonderful animals and their habitats”.

Their USDA reports reflect on this zoo much differently. According to their December 2011 inspection report, they had 11 non-direct violations (  meaning it doesn’t have a high potential to adversely affect the health of the animal ) and 1 direct violation (  has a high potential to affect the health and well-being of the animal ) and 6 repeat violations. Before that, in August 2011, they had 15 non-direct violations, with 3 repeats and each inspection before that they have had 5 or more violations.

The violations in question were not little things, even though the “non-direct” classification seems as though they are pretty harmless.


First and foremost, the Sellners were cited for not having a sufficient number of adequately trained employees. At this time, the prior three inspection reports had a significant number of documented noncompliance items. The owners currently had other full-time jobs and were the only ones doing the regulated work at the zoo. The inspector stated, “Giving consideration to the demands on facility owners, the number of animals, the species of animals and inspection history; it is apparent that there is not a sufficient number of employees in this facility.”

Pictured on the left is Salima, a 30-year-old Hamadryas Baboon. The USDA inspector said that she is showing signs of muscle loss and has experience generalized hair loss over her entire body. The inspector goes on to say that the Sellners have neglected to get Salima checked out by the attending veterinarian.

This isn’t the only “ding” the zoo received for not allowing the animals to have adequate vet care. 5 of their goats have “excessively” long hooves, which can cause severe pain and discomfort to the animals. It also causes the goat to have a different stance, which can create musculoskeletal related issues.

Ring-tailed lemurThe enclosures of the animals also made a huge impression on the inspector. The dogs did not have a floor in their shelter, they also didn’t have wind or rain protection. The support rail of the enclosure had also broken loose, causing the tarp to bow into the cage.

 The dividers in the rabbit boxes are in “disrepair”- the divider had come away from the wood supports and had resulted in wires protruding into the enclosures. It posed a severe physical hazard to the rabbits (yet is only considered a non-direct violation).

Chuki, a ring-tailed lemur (pictured to the right), lived in an enclosure that didn’t have adequate lighting. The back of the enclosure and the areas behind partitions are very difficult to observe.

The camels at the zoo had pushed the shelter off of its base, resulting in the shelter to become crooked. The camel was not able to stand straight.

While doing this routine inspection, Amirah, a one year old baboon, escaped from her primary enclosure. She was captured and returned to her enclosure, only to escape again. This is a hazard to the safety of the animal, as well as any public that should visit.

USDA Inspection photo taken 12/10/11 showing excessively long hooves on goats. This is a REPEAT violation from August 2011.

The sheep and cattle enclosures were also in much dismay. There was a gap between the fence and the ground, with wires protruding in to the enclosure. There was wool stuck to the wires where the sheep had crawled through to escape. Much of the other fence was broken, as well. In the cattle pen, there was an accumulation of water and mud around the water tanks and the feeding area. The cattle were required to walk through mud and feces to get to their food and water. The drainage was not sufficient.

Two enclosures housing tigers were approximately 10 feet high and did not have tops. The enclosures were not sufficient to contain the animals. (Again, these are still the non-direct violations…) Back in July of 2011, Tom Sellner (zoo owner) was attacked by one of his tigers while trying to feed it. The tiger was not put down, and after being life-flighted to Iowa City, Tom was expected to fully recover.

The inspector has cited them for several violations when it came to their cleaning, sanitizing, general housekeeping, and pest control.

There were several open boxes of fruit in the primate housing areas, as well as the reptile house, and the educational center. The fruit was molding and had a severe accumulation of fruit flies hovering. There were also open bags of feed that was over run by flies.

There was an excessive amount of algae in the water receptacles belonging to the cavy, the capybara, and the bobcats. 

There was an excessive amount of animal waste in the following enclosures: bear, rabbit, primates, cattle, llama, kinkajou, African porcupine, lemurs, armadillos, lions and tigers. 

The inspector also noticed a severe amount of flies, fruit flies, and mice throughout the entire zoo. 


The direct violation that the Cricket Hollow Zoo received is just as awful as everything that I have listed above. The water receptacle in the dog cage was completely empty. When watered by the 

inspector, they drank vigorously and returned constantly to drink the water during the inspection. It had been reported that the dogs were only watered once a day and, upon closer inspection, it was noted that the bowl had excessive dirt and other debris inside of it.

Upon visiting this atrocious zoo myself, I was absolutely sickened. Not just by the general lack of care that the animals were receiving, but by the sense of pride that Mrs. Sellner felt in her zoo. I visited during the extreme heatwave that Iowa was suffering from and the animals were in terrible conditions. Most of them had absolutely no water, the carnivores had rotting food in their cages, and all of the animals were covered in flies (some of which had numerous bites that drew blood). Complaints were filed, yet no relief came for those animals. The conditions were deemed fine… You have read the reports and my account, what do you think? Here are some more photos taken at the zoo. Please flip through them and express your disgust.  And please “like” the new Cricket Hollow Zoo Concerns page to bring more awareness to this subject. 

If you will recall what happened in Ohio last October when over 50 wild animals escaped a small-town zoo and ended up being slaughtered by local police- this included 18 rare bengal tigers. The owner had been repeatedly in trouble for abuse and neglect. All of those beautiful animals were put down, not because they were dangerous, but because they were not in their natural habitat and simply following their instincts.

USDA Inspection photo taken 12/10/11 showing empty water receptacle, with an excessive amount of dirt and debris in it, for the Sheepdogs.

Does  the Cricket Hollow Zoo  sound very safe to the animals or the public? The words in this article came directly from the USDA inspection reports, so why are facilities like this allowed to exist, when the animals are constantly being neglected?  

If you are truly upset about this article, PLEASE  call the Delaware County Sheriff and express concern for Iowa Code 717B3, Neglect of non-livestock animals. His number is (563) 927-3135. And please, take a visit there yourself, but REMEMBER to file a complaint with the USDA. It is so important that they hear our stories! 

If you liked what you have read, please remember to “like” our facebook page to stay updated on this zoo and other stories of neglect. 

**All pictures either came from Cricket Hollow’s facebook page ,  webpage, USDA photos or the Iowa Animal Welfare Alliance page**


0 thoughts on “Lions, Tigers and… Runaway Baboons?

  1. Lisa Kuehl

    What a great, eye-opening report. I am always leary of rural, small-town zoos and this information is a classic case of animals in the wrong hands. Thank you for sharing this. It would be great for the media to be aware of this so they can alert the pubic to the downside of these seemingly benign places. By not supporting them, consumers send a message loud and clear that irresponsible animal operations, be it a zoo, a dog breeder, a shelter or any other type, wil not be tolerated and patronized.

  2. D.H.

    I have never heard a good word about this place. Trash Trash Trash! How anyone can claim they are a steward for the animals and care must be on heavy drugs.
    These people Tom and Pam Sellner are in LaLa land and the State of Iowa is doing nothing about it. What are the Inspectors and State Vets afraid of? That if they follow the Law and shut down all these filthy places, they won’t have a job and a big paycheck? This State reeks of animal feces from Hogs (#1 in the Nation) to Puppy Mills (#2 in the Nation) and have people paid to fail those that they are supposed to be protecting!

  3. Cindy Ludwig, M.A., KPA-CTP

    I visited this zoo and was going to offer my services as a certified clicker trainer for animal husbandry and environmental enrichment until I saw the deplorable conditions which left me heartsick ~ the tiny enclosures, the neurotic, sad behavior of the captive animals, the lack of adequate shade and housing and clean water..the lack of environmental enrichment, even natural habitat…I couldn’t bear it. I left feeling hopeless and very sad for the animals there.

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