Zoo Safety, for People and Animals
Early last year, the death of a gorilla at a Cincinnati zoo sparked fierce debates across social media channels. The gorilla, named Harambe, was shot by officials after a three-year-old boy slipped away from his mother and into the zoo’s gorilla enclosure. Harambe approached the boy, but it is unknown if he intended to actually harm the child, or if he was just curious. However, he became seemingly agitated, likely by the screaming of witnesses to the scene, and picked up the boy. At this point, officials shot Harambe to prevent any harm being done to the boy. The killing provoked widespread controversy.
There have been many other incidents of death and injuries involving animals. At Orlando’s SeaWorld, a killer whale sparked similar controversy after it drowned and killed a trainer. In 2004, a gorilla in Dallas was killed by police after escaping and attacking several people. A tiger in San Francisco met a similar fate in 2007.
Oftentimes, the victims of animal attacks are employees, who need to enter the enclosures to feed the animals. In rare instances, patrons are attacked, injured, or killed. In these events, the animals are sometimes euthanized afterwards. Since many zoo animals are endangered species, death as a result of human involvement is a tragedy on many levels.
In some cases, these incidents might have been prevented if the zoo guests properly followed zoo protocol. When visiting a zoo (like Tampa’s beautiful Lowry Park!), here are some things to keep in mind:
- Respect the animals. They can easily become agitated or anxious. Don’t harass the animals by yelling at them, throwing things, or banging on their enclosures.
- If you want to take pictures of the animals, do not get too close to them, even if they are behind glass.
- Don’t feed the animals. They have very strict diets to fit their specific needs, and “human food” can make them sick. In an area where you can feed the animals, only give them zoo-approved food. Don’t throw trash into the enclosures, because the animals might eat it.
- Obey all zoo rules. In general, they include guidelines about prohibited items, smoking-free zones, and photography.
- If you see someone acting suspiciously or dangerously, find an official and inform them.
- Supervise your children. There are many exciting things for curious children to explore at the zoo, but make sure they explore safely. Don’t lift your children over the sides of enclosures or walls to help them get a better look at the animals.
- Do not enter any cages or enclosures. Even animals that look non-threatening can still bite or scratch if provoked.
Zoo can be safe for everyone, people and animals alike, if zoo guests remain respectful of the animals and aware of their surroundings.
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