Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Breaching Barriers at the San Francisco Zoo

Even in the wake of the tragedy of a Mother dropping her kid into an Animal exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo, our Zoo as usual continues Status Quo.   

I heard there were going to be additional signs put up about crossing barriers, but two weeks later, that has yet to be seen.   This is no surprise as the things the Zoo chooses to do for the most part are always curious.

I have been writing about Visitor misbehavior in my blogs for over a year, yet there have been no changes at the Zoo. 

I have not only blogged about this issue, but as far back as 2009 when I had an open email correspondence with the San Francisco Zoo Director Tanya Peterson, I made two significant suggestions.  One was instilled immediately (Winter hours), the other (more signage at Gorillas) has been in slight only recently at the suggestion of the Zoo's new hire of a "Visionist" for Animal Wellness.   

After the Tiger event of 2007, which took place near closing time on Christmas Day, with each time change I wondered, why is the Zoo still open til 5p?  Why are Visitors allowed to wander around the Zoo in the dark?   I found it extremely curious with a Team of supposed Zoo "professionals" that no one had thought this was a bad idea.  Clearly no one working at or connected with the San Francisco Zoo (San Francisco Zoological Society San Francisco Rec and Park), THOUGHT about this at all.  

In 2009, A man breached the barrier at Grizzly Bears.  This was in the later part of the day,  there was no Security in the area, and if our Grizzly Girls had not backed off this Human, they would have lost their lives.  I was sickened at this possibility and emailed Director Peterson immediately.  Along with stating the obvious in regards to Security, ect, I asked two questions.  Why is the Zoo open til 5p when its dark?   Are you waiting for another Tiger event?   I closed by suggesting the Zoo change its hours during the Winter and close at 4p. A few days later at the monthly Joint Zoo Committee Meeting Director Peterson proposed this exact time change to the Commission.  Winter hours started that year.  ... As I say in many instances, who's running the Zoo?  Oh yeah, me.  I should be.  Seriously, why did it take me to suggest this?  

After the Grizzly Bear incident the Zoo posted additional Security for about a week.  It was ridiculous as they had one Guard staring into the Grizzlies for days.  That said, after that week, there has not been any regular Security patrol at the Bears or any other area in the Zoo.  There is no additional signage.  There is no additional education.  There is nothing to help deter misbehavior towards the Animals.  Making this a priority in some cases like barrier breaching, would also prevent tragedies in which one of our precious Zoo Friends or that of the Human involved, could lose their life.

After the Tiger event of 2007, the Zoo was forced to make changes to the Big Cat Grottos, to keep the Animals in.  I can tell you one thing, I have never seen an Animal try to cross the barrier of an enclosure.  What I see every visit is a Human crossing the barrier of Animal enclosures.  Why is keeping Humans on the Visitor side of enclosures not as important as keeping Animals on the Animal side?  In the wake of all these events, why are exhibits (not only at SFZoo) allowed to be open aired between the Visitors and the Animals? 

Of course, having natural open aired exhibits is the "modern" (and ideal) way, but as society has also grown with the times, so has stupidity and evilness.   There needs to be a new way to showcase Animals without all Beings, being vulnerable.

I guess spending money on a new playground trumps not only updating Animals living spaces, but also keeping them and stupid humans safe.

Does the San Francisco Zoo Management not realize that the Zoo will not survive another tragedy?   

In the past two Visits (four days) I have seen Visitors dangle their kids over the barriers at the Hippo, Black Rhino, and Patas Monkey.

 @ Hippo

@ Rhino  

@Patas Monkey

& Continued breaching and disrespect @Anteater 

Granted I present my opinions on this barrier issue from the Safety side of both Animal and Human, I'm sure everyone who reads anything I write knows my concern will always be exclusively for the Animals.  That may sound awful, but I think in everything, they are never the priority.   Captive Animals especially, are at the mercy of Humans, yet the Humans who visit these captive Animals are at the mercy of themselves.  

That said, regardless of the incident at the Pittsburgh Zoo two weeks ago,  why do Humans think this behavior is acceptable at the homes of these Animals?   Whether or not an Animal is considered dangerous or not, this is disrespectful.  Would Humans like someone (or a wild animal for that matter) dangling their legs through a window in their home?   Disrespect aside, for this to even happen post Tatiana (Tiger event of 2007)  in any Zoo, is curious at best.   Did any of these people hear about the Pittsburgh Zoo incident?  Do they think that can't happen to them?  I'm sure the mother of the kid that she dropped into the Wild Dog enclosure didn't think that would happen.  Good Grief, is all sense disappearing?   I just don't get it.  I don't get the thought process of people.  

That said, what is the thought process of Zoo's like our San Francisco Zoo?  Why are Visitors allowed to behave this way?  Why is there no deterrent in the way of more signs, better barriers  more Security or Staff presence?   These downfalls lay solely within bad Management and with that irresponsible decision making and priorities. 


  1. I see barriers breached on every single visit to the zoo. I never see security and if I do, they just keep on moving. Parents hang toddler over barriers, punks still throw things. Teens still deface signs and windows. No one says a word. It's almost as if the zoo likes bad things to happen because they get publicity. It's silly, but it appears that way. They'll take negative publicity over no publicity at all, ignorant thinking. It appears that playgrounds and cocktail parties are the priority there. (my personal opinion, don't hate). People being unruly ruin my day there but nothing will take away my love for all the wonderful animals there. I just wished more people would get involved with their opinions. I know zoo employees read this blog, there is an anonymous button you can use if you don't want your name out.

  2. @Lee- Thank you for your comment. I agree with everything you've said. AND I will add that while I agree with you, most people who know us will think "well of course she does", I say to them, even though there often aren't that many comments except for ours, these thoughts and opinions I put forth are not just mine and my friends. I talk to alot of people in and out of the Zoo and there is much agreement to the topics I write about. That said, I too wish more people would post comments.

  3. Thanks for the entry, Kim. The photos are particularly effective. I have two ideas, one crazier than the other. And maybe you're already done the first one, which is to write AAZA and not just SFZ? The second one is starting a website, "Zoo Danglers and Dangers," which could show photos of these dangerous situations. The BIG problem with that is ethics- is it OK to take and post photographs of people without their permission? You'd need to get opinions on that probably. But if those of us in the animal networks would share it, it could go out widely beyond SFZ. It could even include zoos where NO breaching is possible as counter-evidence.

    1. @Barbara- Thank you for your comment! My apologies for being tardy in my appreciation. ... Thank you as well for your suggestions. I have alot of thoughts on this and am by no way done with calling out the San Francisco Zoo as I see this happen. Regarding photos, not sure whether you can post photos as I have but in my opinion if you are out in public then you are fair game. NOW about contacting the AZA. I have not gone that far yet, but have thought to. The only reason other than being overwhelmed with things to do, is that I have contacted them in the past for two other serious issues and never received a responce. One was about Wishbone's (Andean Bear) living conditions and the other was about the Zoo's neglect to oil Elly's (Black Rhino) skin. I don't have faith in what the AZA stands for if they don't care that a Bear is living on concrete to the point his bones are literally killing him or that a Rhino has softball size sores on her skin because the Staff is too lazy to oil her. I would love to have a site like you mentioned where people could contribute, but sadly I don't know that many would. I seem to be alone (outside my own network) in my feelings about things Zoo-wise. I tried at one point to contribute to a forum called Zoo Chat until I was bashed for having a personal agenda and accused of being an disgruntled ex-employee. Obviously neither apply, I'm just someone who cares. I will think about starting a Facebook page maybe for people to share photos?

  4. It's unbelievable that the zoo hasn't done more to keep its beloved animals safe from people; I hope someone there is reading your blog and realizes the danger in doing nothing. I would also like to see the AAZA do more when inspecting zoos and re-accrediting them.

    I believe it's okay to take pictures in a public place without people's permission, but...someone could sue for any number of reasons and possibly win. I do know photo contests ask for a "model's release" if there is a recognizable picture of someone so maybe you could start taking pictures where the people aren't recognizable and post those - like the hippo one.

    1. @hazel- Thank you for your comment! My apologies for being tardy in my appreciation. ... Well, I can say that I know for sure people at the Zoo read my blog, so no one (including Director Peterson) can claim ignorance. Documentation is one of the reasons I do this, with my primary goal in all of this being for the well being of the Animals. That said, with no changes being made to exisiting exhibits, the Zoo's claim of "Wellness" is pure illusion. ... I too would like to see the AZA take a stronger stance in the way exhibits are built/upgraded. BUT look at the simple fact that even regardless of safety issues presented, the AZA has allowed the SFZoo to build that playground before getting Animals like the Polar Bears off cement. Bottom line that is apparent by procedure and action is that no one of authority seems to care about the Animals lives, how they live and/or protecting them. If they did we wouldn't see what we are seeing, especially at the SFZoo where the rules after the Tiger event (should have) changed everything and other Zoo's should have acted accordingly. BUT the SFZoo has done nothing after that except to alter the Big Cats and put up that silly fencing at two Polar exhibits (like if a Polar wanted to escape they wouldn't just do it on the one exhibit that isn't fenced in. Good Grief the senselessness at work there is astounding). ... Regarding photos, going the extra step and blacking out faces is an option.


*Thank you for your comment. All comments are appreciated and I try my best to reply back in a timely manner. Sometimes "timely" isn't possible, but I will reply to all comments at some point. Please check back.
*As with all posts, please expand comments for additional insight and information.
*If you have a problem commenting, please contact me via the about.me link on the sidebar.
*Contact the San Francisco Zoo Director Tanya Peterson if you want your voice heard within the walls tanyap@sfzoo.org
*Thank You for taking the time to read about things that matter to me.