Sunday, November 9, 2014

Babie Gorilla Killed by "Safety" Door - SFZoo Tragedy

I waited til this evening to post this for a couple reasons, one being I wanted to be sure its something I wanted to do.  I'm not sure want is the right word, need might be better.  

I haven't posted on Zoo Friend passing's in sometime.  Its just too sad, so I have chosen not to.  The circumstances regarding this incident, make this something that begs questions.

I am heartbroken at the news out of the Zoo yesterday.  While I am sad, I'm also pissed.  I didn't want to write anything, instead being respectful to Kabibe's memory and sensitive to all who loved her, including her Keepers, but this should have never happened.  This sweet young girl should never have lost her life.  My heart weeps for the Gorilla Troupe.  I can't even imagine the screams that came from them, the sounds of their pain witnessing this horrific action must have been deafening.

I was at the Zoo yesterday, and because of limited time I often don't get to the whole Zoo on every visit.  As I was leaving the Savannah and stopped and looked toward Gorilla World.  I got a vision of Kabibe and thought, its sunny day and  I bet she is out playing and doing cute things, but not wanting to battle the hordes of People for a viewing spot, I continued away, choosing to wait til a less crowed day during the week.  

In hindsight knowing that Gorilla World was even open, infuriates me so much.  The Zoo didn't even have the decency to close their exhibit to Visitors yesterday so they could mourn as a Family without Assholes hootin' at them and pounding their chests.  Its disgusting.

In my opinion, the Zoo never takes the feelings of the Animals into consideration.  This especially is not surprising coming out of the Primate Department as Curator Corrine MacDonald once tossed about the Anthropomorphic word (meaning to attribute human form or personality to things not human) when I was sharing my observations on the behavior and expressions by a couple of the Gorillas.

The statement out of the Zoo says, there will be an investagation and look at procedure.  I sure hope there is an outside investigation that will be made public directly.  Otherwise the only word we have is that of Zoo Management, which meams, we as the public will only hear the version they put out.

I know my opinions and questions are not going to be the popular ones, but I'm sure I am not the only one with them.  I'm sure Keepers who talk to me, may not after this.  I will be marked as someone who always tried to find fault, even in an "accident" but there are some accidents that can possibly be prevented.  Everyone has to know, there are questions on everyone's mind.

I got a call about this not long after leaving the Zoo. So I had not read any news articles, only had the information about how she died.  Too many things immediately flooded my mind, along with many tears.  I literally get chills each time I in the plain and simple, Kabibe is gone.

How could something like this happen?  At the time I didn't know that the doors were hydraulic.   Obviously I don't know the pros and cons of safety doors.  I do know that the Lion House door system is manual.  I was also told at one time, several years ago that the doors/"operating panel" at Gorilla World allegedly needed to be redesigned because the Gorillas had watched how it was done and learned to open them.   I now wonder if this was a change from manual to hydraulic?   Regardless, several questions come to mind.

Prior to writing this early this morning, I had only read one article.  It said she "dashed" under the door unexpectedly.  My vision of what happened had them all safely in the night quarters, the door being activated and Kabibe turning around and "dashing" under the door in the opposite direction of the Troupe.  Based on that ...

First and foremost, why was this door activated to close while any of the Gorillas were in a plausible "dashing" distance?   All Animals should be at a cleared distance before the closing action.  Now that we also know these doors did not have a Stop Mechanism, the Animals should also have a distraction that keeps them occupied for the amount of time it takes to close, so none can go back the way they came for any reason? ... To me, this is a Negligence on what Procedure should be.  OR maybe is procedure and it wasn't followed?

I kept a confidence years ago about a Caging Negligence in the Lion House, where allegedly safety doors were left open between the Female Siberian Tiger and a Male African Lion.  I was told the "Mistake" was noticed within seconds of one or both of those Animals losing their lives.  The caging closed in time to prevent full on physical contact.  These Animals are supposed to be separated by two bedrooms (cages) and the Lion ended up with scratches on his face.  SO, I know for fact, "mistakes" happen.  While they are just that, there are still questions that need to be answered, especially when they involve losing a life,

At that time there was no "buddy system" with Keepers.  Something that a recent investigation revealed was part of current Protocol for Code Red Animals.  As I understand it, put in place for Human Safety.  What about for Animal Safety?  Is there a "double check" by the back-up Keeper?

After reading an article this afternoon that a friend found, a different picture was painted in my mind. It noted this happened during the closing procedure of the Gorillas going off exhibit to the night quarters, which would then leave Kabibe being the last one in?  To me that didn't make sense.  Not saying it didn't happen, but it didn't make sense.  And, if this is how it happened, to me its even less understandable how this "accident" happened, without a premature door activation.  If these Animals are coming in from exhibit, there should be no hurry to close the door.

Next, it was noted in the first article I read, that the door system has no Emergency stop button? Why, would a Safety Door not have this option?   This is beyond my comprehension.  I have had many head shakes at stuff the Zoo does, but THIS, something that could possibly and DID cost an Animal its life, is a completely Negligent Management decision.  

I work in a place that  has a freight elevator with motion sensor, you can't even have your elbow near it and the door stops and opens.  Why is there no motion sensors on these safety doors?  WHY?   This is the most important question to be asked.

The article I read noted that this has happened before in other Zoos.  After that, why wasn't there an across the board inspection and redesign of all safety doors in all Zoos?   Was there?  Did the San Francisco Zoo take short cuts once again?   Has there been a follow-up to the Safety expose' that came out of the Zoo earlier this year?  The Zoo sure has been busy building Tiki Huts for Director Peterson's Cocktail parties, and fancy outdoor Camping areas, yet Animal enclosures (homes) are still in need of upgrades and now obviously so is their Safety.  When will the needs of the Animals be a Priority at the Zoo?
I do not want to put blame on any one person, as I don't and will never know the true details of what happened.  I know the people who cared for her loved her and feel awful.  That doesn't mean that all these questions are not valid.   Someone is responsible.   Whether its the person who made the decision that a door without a Stop action was safe, the person who didn't set a safety distance protocol, the person who didn't have the sense to follow protocol if there was one or make their own determination on safety,  whoever, for whatever reason, plain and simple,  THIS should have NEVER happened!

Unfortunately the tragedies out of the SFZoo will not stop coming.   Two words, Barrier Breaching.  

RIP Sweet Girl and Bless you and your Family.

Kabibe with Grandma Bawang

Kabibe with Brother Hasani


  1. You ask some excellent questions, Kim. I'm very surprised that the curator of primates wouldn't know how like humans these animals are. As for the gate, a follow-up article today stated: "A hydraulic door that crushed an endangered young gorilla to death at the San Francisco Zoo on Friday night was custom-made with a fully functional manual shut-off switch, a zoo spokesman said Sunday." - Grace

  2. I agree with all you have stated. I am sick over this senseless death. I dont want to even call this an accident because over the years i have seen the zoo become more and more lazy and not putting the health,safety and happiness of the animals first. Their cocktail fundraisers show nothing going towards exhibits. Ok, i am a little off path here. This precious gorilla should not have died. She was like an toddler, prone to dashing and scampering so this issue should have always been watched at days end. Th u s falls on zoo management but they will cover up as always. An outside investigation needs to happen. God Bless this precious troupe.

  3. I am sickened to hear this! It is the zoo's responsibility to protect the animals who live there!! There is no excuse for this! Shame on them as well for not closing down Gorilla World so they could mourn in private! If it was a person, they would have most likely shut the whole zoo down. The zoo is responsible for the death of this precious little girl! The zoo needs to be investigated for allowing this to happen! They need to give the animals that say respect and treatment that they give any of their visitors. Shame on the zoo!! Laurie

  4. Kim, You did a wonderful job on your writing about this tragic accident .An accident that SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED...! I am wondering why two young lady keepers? Where did they receive experience in taking care of large animals such as gorillas???????Isn't there suppose to be two keepers in charge of putting them into their night quarters safely? Why was there only one keeper? Does it take a degree to push a button to stop the closure of a door? Nothing can bring such a precious little lady back, but something should sure as hell be done to protect what animals we have now and in the future.
    Hirering keepers with experience would certainly help I would think. Animals should be first and formost for their safety. Keepers can be replaced, precious animals, not.Can we vote on this?


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