Sipp, who lives out of state, could not be reached for comment. No one answered the phone at the closed zoo, located on a rural road.
During a recent visit, the lone giraffe stared back inquisitively at motorists who stopped briefly to look at him as he stood in his furry, winter coat and licked a patch of snow inside his pen. The row of cages behind him, which once held monkeys and parrots, appeared to be empty. The area around the giraffe's barn was cluttered with debris and several dismantled cages. Roosters crowed noisily along with other shrill birds on the premises.
Over the last dozen years, the zoo had been cited by federal animal welfare regulators for more than 200 deficiencies, including animal neglect, unsanitary conditions, and maintenance issues.
In 2011, two separate fires at the property killed Sipp's wife, Bridget, and a female giraffe and her baby. Both fires were ruled accidental. Sipp rebuilt the giraffe barn and began making some improvements, but then faced new problems when several hyenas escaped and a child was bitten by a monkey in a cage.
Sipp's exotic animal permit expired Dec. 31, according to Larry Hajna, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. But Hajna said Sipp's staff told the agency he would file his application this month. "Even though it is no longer open as a zoo, he must get a permit because we regulate enclosures and make sure the animals are properly caged," he said.
Hajna said the zoo had no outstanding violations.
As of last summer, Animal Kingdom had 34 animals, including six spotted hyenas, two baboons, eight scimitar-horned oryx, and European minks. The year before, there were nearly 200 animals on display at the zoo, which had charged admission.
Springfield Mayor Denis McDaniel said he had not received any complaints in recent months from any of the neighbors. "Most of the animals are gone," he said. "If you drive by, you can see there's not much activity there."