For those of you who don’t know, as a teenager I worked/volunteered at the local zoo in the city I grew up in. It was an amazing experience, one where I was able to raise birds, squirrels, deer, and even lion cubs. Along with capturing alligators and crocodiles, that was just a few experiences I had along the way.
Of course, I also learned how to respect these feral creatures while watching them interact with their own species, zoo visitors, and the zookeepers who cared for them daily. One of the most constant and stressed teachings I had with the zookeepers was that even caged animals born into captivity still held the wild thread within their blood. They were not to be underestimated at any time. As the Educational Curator placed emphasis upon, “Anything with a mouth can bite.” Just because they were in a zoo didn’t mean they were tame by any means.
Unfortunately, situations or mistakes take place and there can be deadly consequences. Some were provoked while others were not. However, I stand to say that each of the zookeepers I worked along side knew each time they put themselves in danger. Which was every day they fed out or walked into an animal’s enclosure, their home, their territory.
With that said, I find it ironic as well as a little daunting that someone would have to decide “what to do with the animal”. We’re not talking about a rogue dog that wandered into your yard and bit you. We’re talking about known wild animals that are caged. Why would it automatically be thought it their fault when that’s what they are…wild. Is it not human illusion that they could make them be anything but that? Has television really made kids as well as adults think they can be tamed just because the guy on T.V. wrestled with one and it looked like fun?
This is not me talking without experience. I raised lion cubs that were days old taken from their mother until nearly a year old and over a 100 pounds. In many senses they were my children, my babies. But even in play they would go for my neck, not realizing their strength and power against me. So, I add to this question. Does their wildness automatically charge them as being faulty? Faulty and dangerous are two totally different things. Just as I said with my lion cubs who thought they were only playing with me as they did with each other. Not because they were intentionally trying to kill me.
Should you be punished for defending your home? Should you be labeled as bad because you did something that was just human nature? What about their animal nature?
Here are just a few stories about zoo animal attacks, even one as short as a few days ago. What do you think? What would you do?
1. Animal keeper killed in lion attack at Seoul zoo – Feb. 2015
SEOUL, South Korea — An animal keeper died Thursday after apparently being attacked by two lions at a zoo in South Korea’s capital, officials said.
A colleague found the keeper, 52-year-old Kim Geun-bae, unconscious and bleeding heavily from his neck and legs in the animals’ enclosure, as a male and female lion wandered near him, according to Seoul Children’s Grand Park official Jisun Lee. Kim was pronounced dead at a hospital about two hours later, she said.
There were no witnesses or visitors at the time of the attack because the zoo has been closed since last week to prevent the spread of avian flu, Lee said.
The park said Kim had 20 years’ experience as an animal keeper and had been working with dangerous animals such as lions, tigers and leopards for the past three years.
Lee said the zoo is waiting for police to examine security camera video and other evidence before deciding what to do with the lions.
2. Fuzhou, China
In September 2007, a visitor to the Fuzhou Zoo was taking pictures of Assamese macaques when one of the monkeys grabbed his phone and began chewing it. The man climbed over the railing to get his phone back and was scratched by three enraged monkeys.
3. Beijing, China
In January 2009, a visitor at the Beijing Zoo jumped over a barrier to retrieve a toy dropped by his son. Instead of getting the toy, he got attacked by a 240 pound panda named Gu Gu, who bit his legs and refused to let go. Apparently this cuddly panda has developed a taste for human flesh, as it has previously attacked two other humans.
4. Kiev, Ukraine
In July 2008, a visitor at the Mykolaev city zoo was trying to take some close-up pictures of the Siberian Brown bears. The visibly intoxicated man lost his footing and fell into the enclosure. He was promptly attacked by three bears, who ripped him apart, killing him.
5. San Francisco, California
On Christmas 2007, four visitors to the San Francisco Zoo were seen taunting a 243-pound Siberian tiger named Tatiana. Less than an hour later, the tiger escaped from her enclosure and attacked three of her agitators, killing one of them. It is unclear how the tiger escaped and there is suspicion that it was aided by humans.
6. Calgary, Canada
In October 2009, two drunken men snuck into the Calgary Zoo at one in the morning to surprise a friend working there. They climbed over a safety fence and approached the tiger cage. One of the men was mauled and severely injured by a Siberian tiger named Vitali. Their friend was no doubt surprised, not by their visit, but at how stupid they are.
7. Guwahati, India
In December 2009, a visitor at the Guwahati Zoo jumped over a barrier to get an up-close shot of the tigers on his cell phone. Although there were bars separating the man from the tigers, one tiger managed to rip off the man’s hand and another tiger soon joined in on the attack. It seems these tigers were quite camera-shy, as their would-be photographer was later pronounced dead.
8. Manitowoc, Wisconsin
In March 2010, a woman ignored barriers and warning signs and approached two bears, intending to feed them. While humans enjoy chicken fingers, apparently bears prefer human fingers, and one bear bit off her thumb and forefinger and partially severed her middle and ring fingers.
9. Hyderabad, India
Along with driving, operating heavy machinery, and calling your grandma, add “feeding large carnivorous felines” to the list of things that don’t mix well with alcohol. In August 2009, a drunk man snuck into the Nehru Zoological Park after visiting hours. He approached a white tiger, with grass in hand, and tried to feed it through the bars. The tiger found his arm much more appealing and mauled him, ripping a great deal of flesh off of his right arm.
10. Berlin, Germany
Desiring to play with the animals, a woman jumped into an animal enclosure at the Berlin Zoo in April, 2009. She soon learned that polar bears, the world’s largest land carnivores, don’t make good playmates, as the polar bears bit her several times, severely injuring her.
11. Kiev, Ukraine
It seems lions hate having religion shoved down their throats just as much as humans do. In June 2006, a man climbed into the lion enclosure at the Kiev Zoo, ranting about God and how he would not be killed by the lions. One lion disagreed and seized him at the throat, killing him.
If you have any doubts, I simply leave you with this.
One of the last years I volunteered, we constructed a new habitat native to the state I lived in. One of the enclosures had a net where bobcats could walk above you. Great for pictures and seeing the animal from all angles. However, I was horrified one day as I witnessed a man holding a toddler above his head. As the little girl reached towards the large wild cat with her tiny fingers he said to her, “Awww, pet the kitty.”
Is there really anything else to say?