Just days after a child wandered into a gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo, the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo had its own incident of unwanted human-animal contact. But in this case, it was the animals who were endangered.
“We had to escort some people out of the zoo because they had brought meat in to feed to the lions,” Zoo Supervisor Sara Hamlin said.
The visitors probably didn’t mean any harm.
“They had been in the day before and asked what lions eat,” she said. “We think they simply wanted to interact with the animals, which we can appreciate. But there can be dangerous ramification when the rules are broken.”
However well intended, their actions could have had serious consequences. Boss, the older of the two male lions, is on a lot of medications which are introduced through his food. So, if he had something other than his special diet, he might not eat it.
“Our lions compete for food,” Hamlin continued. “We feed them separately.” Putting meat in the enclosure when both males were present could have resulted in a fight.
That wasn’t the only time the humans visiting the zoo behaved badly.
On May 30, someone jumped the wooden fence surrounding the bears’ exhibit to take a selfie. The individual snapped the photo and escaped without injury, but the outer fences at the zoo are obviously there for a reason.
Back in may, zookeepers found the remnants of a red sweatshirt in the cougars’ enclosure. For several days that followed, the keepers found pieces of red fabric in the stools of both cougars.
“We hope that it was a simple accident but it could put our cats lives at risk,” Hamlin commented at the time. “There is a possibility that the fabric could bind up (their) intestines which would require serious surgery to fix.”
At the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, a boy who slipped into the habitat of Harambe, a 17-year-old western lowland gorilla, on May 28 was in imminent danger. That left the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team with no option but to shoot the 450-pound gorilla, zoo director Thane Maynard said in a statement on Facebook.
Hamlin urges guests at the Great Bend zoo to be aware of their actions to keep themselves and the animals safe.
“We don’t ever want to see a situation like that. That’s our worst nightmare.”
Fortunately, most people follow “zoo etiquette,” Hamlin said.
“It’s very rare that these incidents happen. We appreciate those visitors that respect the animals for what they are, which is wild animals.
“This community is really wonderful,” she continued. “We appreciate all that they do for the zoo and all the support that they show us.”