Albany zoologists speak out on Cincinnati gorilla incident

Albany zoologists speak out on Cincinnati gorilla incident
The USDA requires that public barriers be three feet. (Source:WALB)
The USDA requires that public barriers be three feet. (Source:WALB)
Zoologist Jim Fowler (Source: WALB)
Zoologist Jim Fowler (Source: WALB)
Ben Roberts, Chehaw Zoological Manager (Source:WALB)
Ben Roberts, Chehaw Zoological Manager (Source:WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Wild Animal Park at Chehaw is one of just two zoos in Georgia accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

To maintain that designation, they have to focus on keeping visitors and their animals safe.

Chehaw Park officials said that their barriers are in compliance with AZA standards.

When visitors come to the park, they want them to follow park rules to avoid a dangerous situation.

When people visit Chehaw Park's zoo, they'll notice a variety of barriers, like the water and fencing to separate visitors from the animals while enjoying a tour.

"We have public barriers they are there for a purpose not only do they keep people safe, but they keep the animals safe," said Zoologist Ben Roberts.

The video of a 4-year-old boy falling into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo has raised many questions as to how he was able to get inside.

Roberts said that the USDA requires that mammal exhibits have a public barrier of at least three feet where the public stands to look at the animal and the space the animal occupies.

"That's your minimum guidelines there's fence lines, there's glass windows, dry moats, wet moats," explained Roberts.

Cincinnati Zoo officials ultimately shot and killed the Gorilla for the boy's safety, an immediate decision that Roberts said was a no-win situation.

"From a zoo perspective it's a no-win situation, said Roberts. "Anyway you cut it, you lose."

Roberts said that visitors at Chehaw do a good job at reporting violations and concerns to zoo officials because they see the park as a community investment.

"As long as you're following the rules and you're doing what you're suppose to do, any AZA accredited zoo is a perfectly safe place to be," explained Roberts.

Roberts said he hopes the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo doesn't discourage people from visiting zoos or overshadow the good conservation work that zoos do.

A famous Zoologist from Albany believes that the Cincinnati Zoo officials should have been better prepared.

Wild Kingdom's Jim Fowler said the exhibit should have been designed better to prevent a child from getting in.

Fowler said that gorillas are unpredictable, but he thinks there could have been a better way to solve the situation than killing the gorilla.

"They were not prepared is the problem," explained Fowler. "Zoological parks have got to start thinking down the line. You never know one of the keepers might of had a problem in there at one time. So, you've gotta have an emergency situation all figured out."

Fowler thinks a protected vehicle, like a caged golf cart, could have been used to allow zookeepers to get close enough to the gorilla to use pepper spray to diffuse the situation.

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