Saturday, May 3, 2014

Is the San Francisco Zoo Safe?

Even though I wrote this draft a couple days after the broadcast, I haven't had the time to re-read it to publish, til now, a week later.  I hate being so untimely, but life happens.  Sometimes, time passing isn't so bad, because now I am wondering if KGO has any intention on a follow-up piece to document what, if any changes have been made since the "outting".

Sat 4.26.14 - During Friday Night's Re-broadcast of Thursday's KGO News piece on Zoo Safety, they opened posing the line, "Is the San Francisco Zoo Safe?"   I thought it was an odd thing to ask, considering aside from the Tiger Event of 2007, there have been no dire incidents.  That said, that doesn't mean the Zoo isn't posed for another.

Its taken me a couple days to get to this post, not an hour passing without making a note of something I want to include.  The piece made me think of many things I've posted about in the past that relate to this subject.  Where to begin is the obstacle as I write.  Much like I hate that the only time the Zoo seems to be in the News, its in relation to the Tiger attack.  I also don't want to bring up the crime committed against me by Zoo Director Tanya Peterson, but I guess in the case of this "safety" issue, both are relevant in their own ways.

I will note to start since this is related to the News piece, I personally do not feel the Zoo is unsafe. Not in the way that I feel I'm not safe while I'm there.  That said, that is not relevant to the concerns brought up by the Staff in the News piece, which I had no idea was even a concern.  So, does that alter how safe I feel?  Not really.  I just don't have any personal experience with that.  Any Safety issues I have are based on my experience, and those issues are exclusively for the Safety of the Animals, in regards to Visitor Misbehavior.

I was there Christmas Day 2007, probably have the last photo ever taken of Tatiana 2:48 pm.  If I had gone a different route, going instead on the way home, instead of first, I always think I may have been able to save her life.  I would have definitely made sure those three delinquents were stopped.  When I got home and saw the News, I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.  I was just there.  A beautiful Animal was dead.  I knew that this was because of taunting.  

If the Zoo had been open the next day, I would have gone and stood in front of the Tiger enclosure with NO fear for safety.  Just like I have done for 40 plus years before and Visitors have been doing since 1939.

At that time, 2007, although I had a Membership and went often, I did not know the Animals on an individual basis like I do now.  I did not now the "workings" of the Zoo.  I was like most Natives, someone who grew up going to the Zoo and feeling connected to it.  I was very affected by this incident.  I stayed up into the early morning, many nights, participating in comments on sfgate.com forum, where I defended the Zoo endlessly to all the ignorant posters.  One common issue that always and still does piss me off to read was in relation to the height of the wall.  Everyone grabbed at the word "recommended" when in fact, that meant a guideline height, not a "required" height.  Another, which I have read in relation to this piece, many maintain that Visitors should be kept safe regardless of taunting.  Something else I personally find ignorant.  If everything was "sinister" proof, there would be no crime.  If someone goes to extremes, anything is possible.  From all I read, I found no fault of the Zoo.  All I read is all I have to go on, in regards to this.

In the News piece, they say that the taunting was never proved.  That is not true.  Three years after the event sealed Documents were made public and notations indicated that Tatiana was indeed provoked. Much like the Super Strength legend you hear in reference to Mothers and their Children, if pushed, you reach into your core and react.  Tatiana was reacting, defending herself, her companion and her home.  I may not be the most popular for anything I write and surely not for this, but I see people constantly harassing Animals, at the Zoo, in the Park, you read about the disrespect and harm everywhere online, so many Humans are just not nice, and in my opinion I have no doubt that each one of those Boys were involved in harassing her to the point of rage.  

I will note that I have never talked to any Staff Member about this Event, or the one brought up in the News piece, in which Tatiana was again made out to be the Villain for reacting naturally, which always really bothers me.  I have never heard any Staffer in the five plus years I have had conversations with Staffers, say anything about the Zoo not being a Safe working environment for them.  I am not saying its not true, I just have no information in regards to any of this. This was a surprise expose' to me.   That said, what I will write about are things I personally know about that relate to the Subject of Safety, not only for Staff, but for the Animals, and Visitors by default.

From the time I began visiting the Zoo regularly (up to 4x a week), in 2008, until February 2011, I had an open communication with not only Director Peterson, but a very large contingent of Staff.  Then out of nowhere, that changed and myself and my friend were slandered by Director Peterson, accusing us of "calling in a false alarm Code Red incident."  The complete details I chronicled in this blog:

In short, there was an over the barrier incident witnessed by my friend and she called it in.  Due to the Zoo's lame call taking and faulty dispatch system, a Code Red was called.  Because the Zoo screwed up, took no call details and dispatched in error, we were blamed and became the only people in the History of the Zoo to have Memberships revoked.  I was extremely hurt, as I had demonstrated to be a great friend to the Zoo and the Animals who lived there.  I was outraged as I had never been treated this way.  I launched my own investigation and crusade for justice and the return of our Memberships.  
This untruth was fabricated by Director Peterson in an effort to cover-up the Zoo's faulty Safety System.  

I not only contacted the Zoological Society and the Rec and Park Chairman's, a Member of the Rec and Park who sits on the Joint Zoo Committee, the area Supervisor, the Mayor, but also KGO 7 on your side, who sent an investigator to the Zoo, yet he yielded no results for us, because Director Peterson allegedly issued a Gag Order in regard to this event.  I was frustrated and pissed at the lack of investigative reporting these days.  It seemed that no one cared that this happened.  The only reason we got our Memberships back is because I kept at it for almost a year, when we finally got them back when I can only assume that when I asked Zoological Chairman David Staton if just going by Director Peterson's word he "really wanted to be the face of this", he told Peterson to give them back.  They were returned complimentary, which is an indicator of guilt.  ... I will note that one reporter from the Chronicle contacted me and wanted me to assist her with an article "to take Tanya down."  I wasn't interested in that, I just wanted my Membership back.  

How does this relate directly to this News piece?  For one, the reason we were blamed was to specifically use us as a scapegoat for why this Code Red was issued.  The Zoo had its AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Safety Inspection soon (I think it was within two weeks) and if they were found guilty of faults in relation to Safety their accreditation would be in jeopardy.   THIS now begs two questions?  WHAT did the AZA actually check during this 2011 Inspection?  and Will the Zoo's accreditation be reevaluated now?  ... There was a 2011 incident mentioned in the News piece, in which "the system malfunctioned and sent out a false alarm" which I'm investigating to get the date on.  Curious if it coincides with the date of our incident.

I find it disgusting that something so crucial as Safety apparently continues to go ignored by the Zoo's leader.  I know she ignores the Animals safety as changes to barrier breaching that I endlessly post about have for the most part remained status quo.

Prior to our incident, I had made suggestions about how the Calls were taken and about the lack of Security.  Nothing was ever addressed.  The way the Calls are handled was changed immediately. There is still no Security presence on the grounds most of the time.  Even on the busiest days, I have walked the ground for four hours straight and not seen one Security Guard.

Before going on I will note this, which at the time I found an entertaining discovery, now just disgusting.  When I found out my Membership had been revoked, I was trying to gain entry to the Zoo an hour before closing, as I was going to attend the Joint Zoo Committee Meeting that evening.  After being told I couldn't go in, I was livid!  I wanted to speak to Tanya and went to the office, who told me she was conveniently out of town.  At the meeting there was a Security Guard present. There never was at any previous Meetings.  That was my last Meeting, choosing to instead read the Minutes online, rather than sit in a confined space with People who I didn't respect to tell the truth.  By next months Meeting Tanya had metal detectors installed for the Meetings, noting when questioned about them, that is was because 'certain persons had been contacting Board Members...'    Gee wonder who she meant? The paranoia is laughable.  So here we have it, so far the tally here seems to be that Director Peterson seems to not care about anyone but herself.  She made sure within a months time this safety precaution for HER was taken, yet years have passed and Staff don't feel safe?  The only reason she tested this system now is because she was forced to.  As a leader she should be the one to check or at least have someone checking that all Safety "zones" are working properly. Those zones involving Animal Staff Safety, Animal Safety, Visitor alert systems and containment/exit strategies.  During her reign she has allegedly fired/hired/promoted on whim, yet not one person on her Management team can seem to "check batteries."  Both she and her right hand make six figures, what are they doing for their pay?

While having just mentioned a metal detector, I'll add that within the past six months, there have been two incidents of Visitors carrying weapons into the Zoo.  One a Gun and another Hunting Knife.  Both weapons not concealed, yet they go through the gates.  No Security, No Staffer, No One noticed this. It would also serve the Zoo to train Staff to be more aware of what's going on around them.

It was two years after the Tiger attack, two years into the Peterson Reign, and the Zoo nearly missed another blood bath event in 2009 when someone entered the Grizzly Bears Grotto.  Again, during Winter months, late in the day and no Security around.  Thankfully our Bears didn't touch the guy, or they would have been shot dead, murdered because of some idiot and this time, Zoo stupidity, because they let the same attributes repeat.  

At the time I still had Tanya's ear and shot off an email, point blank asking if she was waiting for another Tiger event?  WHY was the Zoo still open til 5p during Winter months, when it gets dark by then?  Not brain surgery, yet she nor anyone else of authority never thought to change the hours? Next meeting, a few days later she posed changing the hours during the Winter months.  It was the first of many times I said to myself, Who's running the Zoo?  I don't mean to sound pompous, but come on, some of the things I suggested and have posted on my blog that have come to fruition, should be something someone of her authority and wage should be able to figure out.

To this day the Zoo still has many barriers that are breachable (which I've documented endlessly and see on each visit more than once).  The Zoo still doesn't hire enough Security Guards and the ones they do spend most their time in the parking lot while Visitors run wild all over the Zoo harassing the Animals.  The Zoo STILL has no outdoor Emergency lights.  Even if there was no ER during opening hours, if something happened there are night (much like when they were blindly searching for Tatiana), they'd be screwed.

After my experience with trying to inform/enlighten the San Francisco Zoological Socialites, <cough> I mean Society, I surmised that they all just don't give a crap about what really goes on at the Zoo.  They don't come to the Zoo unless there's a cocktail party.  Granted they are good with emptying their pockets, but being a governing Board they should be more involved.   As should the Rec and Park, another "office" that doesn't care.  I contacted two people within, so they were aware, and the guy on the News piece acts surprised.  They aren't surprised, they don't care.  I have caught many untruths come from the Zoo Management, some even given to the Joint Zoo Committee as fact and they just take it as fact.  No questions.  There are no checks and balances.  Director Peterson herself doesn't care about the Animals and I have documented that many times.  She has eyes on a City political career.  Why doesn't she just move on now and let someone who loves Animals and cares about the Zoo take over.  Let her fundraise, that's all she seems to be able to do successfully, Mingle with Money.   

The preamble to Fridays re-broadcast noted that many Staffers had planned to protest at that nights annual ZooFest fundraiser but called it off because there were signs of their concerns being recognized. Why aren't the Staffers banding together and calling for Director Peterson's resignation.   Her lack of ability to keep all safe at the Zoo seems to warrant it.  There are better options for Zoo Director within the walls.  Curator Eric Krussman and Penguin Keeper Anthony Brown are two top choices.  Both know the Zoo well and have dedicated many years to it.  Just like at the Oakland Zoo, whose Director is the Head Vet.  The person in charge should know about the Animals who live there and have their and the Staff who take care of them's best interests a priority.  THAT is not happening now and has not since 2008.  This News piece noted that the Staff has lost faith in her.  Prior to this piece, most Staffers would not step forward because they fear termination. Maybe something has changed now.  If so, now is the time to demand a change in the reins.

After the Code Red incident that we were blamed for, Director Peterson sent my friend an email in which she said, "you were involved in a false Code Red situation that put both our Staff and Animals in danger..."  That said, since she took our Memberships away for an accusation of endangerment, shouldn't she have her job taken away for endangerment of Staff and possibly Visitors as this News investigation revealed?

To surmise, the Zoo should be safe for all.  The Staffers, The Animals, and the Visitors.  Animal Care Staff should feel safe working with these Animals, who may not exhibit vicious manners, are still strong wild Animals and act on natural instinct.  The Animals should be safe in their homes.  The Zoo should take a better stance on keeping them safe, which I've documented many suggestions on. Bottom line, the Zoo needs to adopt a Zero tolerance in harassment of the Animals.  Its disgusting the lack of respect and empathy shown.  Just last week a Zoo Employee told me that some guy was torturing the Farm Animals and was told not to and he said, "I paid my fee."   Yet these Entitled, Evil Bullies are not asked to leave on most occasions.  They come to the Zoo and harass the Animals, and that not only puts the Animals in danger both from them directly, but if one falls in an exhibit, the Animal loses its life in order to try and extract it.  Those who have read my blog know I am no Humanitarian, I just have seen too much against Animals to be, but by keeping the Animals safe they keep the Visitors safe by default.

I have been slammed by some at the Zoo as being someone who wants to cause trouble.  Those who actually care about the Animals and know me know that starting with Director Peterson revoking my Membership based on lies, I have continued to keep my eyes open while on the grounds, documenting what I see because I want change, change for the better.  My blog posts have gotten some changes made, but they also provide the documentation if needed as proof of these faults in the event of another tragedy.  Of course I hope that never happens, but knowing how the current Management ignores the Safety of the Animals and Visitors by default and now it seems the Staff, I continue to do so, and apparently its necessary.

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