When I went to the Zoo on Friday, my purpose was to again see if there had been any new deterrents, anyone misbehaving, and to take some photos for my blog. I went with a purpose, rooted in Animal Safety. When I walked through Entry Village I saw Director Tanya Peterson, and other Management Staff, sitting at a table outside the Gift Shop, having a laugh. It appeared to be a festive meet-up, and that pissed me off. While they sat there sharing some cheer, I had the safety of the Animals on my mind. Minutes later I was witnessing someone hanging their kid over the Barrier at the Hippo exhibit.
I gathered photos and video of most of the Code Red Animal Barriers. As mentioned in other posts, before the Tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo, I had blogged about Barrier Abuse (formerly I called it Breaching) many, many times. I blogged, I complained in person, no changes, with the exception of Giant Anteater across from Lion House. His home only got a decent Barrier last fall before the AZA came for their Accreditation Inspection. While I don't think that the Anteater is a Code Red Animal, he could probably do some damage with those claws. My concern about his enclosure was how Visitors laid and failed across his Barrier like it was their personal couch. It was Disrespectful and Rude. They can't do that now, but anyone can surely jump it if they want. Is that considered Safe for the Animal? Which is what we must question at every Exhibit.
Zoo Exhibit Barriers, while "acting" as walled Security designed not only to keep Animals in, but to establish a Visitor side and Animal side, something too many Visitors forget, or more often disregard. I liken the intrusiveness of Barrier Abuse to that of someone hanging in the window of your house while you're there watching t.v. You are just in your home, your Safe place, going about your life and someone invades your personal space. Tables turned, no one would like it, yet those same People will do it to the Animals without a thought. I know this because when asked, Why would you do that? Noting the example, People have told me they wouldn't like it.
So, let's talk about Barrier Abuse. This consists of several offenses. ranging from Banging on the Glass, to actually Crossing the Barriers. Tapping, Rapping, Knocking, Hitting, Banging, Glass. Hanging On, Over, Laying Across, Standing On, Railings or Fencing. All of it Barrier Abuse. The Zoo has few signs, to discourage it. I'll post below.
These are posted a fair amount, but lets face it, they are too wordy and not many People are going to read them. Necessary, but there is a serious need for additional signage.
These are decent, but not enough of them and few in the right places. This one at Anteater. None at Bears. None at Black Rhinos. None at Hippo. None at Chimps. In fact there is Not One Sign at Chimps in reference exclusively to not crossing the Barriers. Only the one above and its off to the side. BUT there is one across the path from Chimps, so you don't go on chipped wood. WTH? Its the same show of priority that having huge signs for Only Authorized Personnel versus the size of Life Saving Signs is. ..... Also I don't like that they only use the word Behind, as that implies the only offense is if you actually go into an Enclosure.
This is one of the most recent efforts in Signage. It too only indicates that actually going into the Exhibits is forbidden. I'm going by memory, but I think its only at three Exhibits. Black Rhinos, Hippo and Bears.
This one I've only seen at the Polar Bear. It was on two at Black Rhino, but they got weathered and were finally removed right before AZA came for inspection. Its actually not bad, but its about six inches long and is in one place on a Barrier that is over 150 feet in length. There are three other signs, but they are spaced too far apart. It also only covers the Standing Offense. Make it bigger, add "Or Over", put it every six ft and we might be getting somewhere with the signage issue. If they aren't going to put solid Barriers, there needs to at least be decent signage.
This one is just plain ridiculous. It was weathered and has now been replaced. Why? I don't know. Again too wordy and only indicates the law if you actually cross the Barrier. Does that mean if someone accidentally falls in Polar Bear Exhibit, Ulu's life is Safe? ... Again also useless in size, it appears only in two places I think, Polar Bear and One Horned Rhino.
Frankly I expect More. I've been saying this for years. Yes, there's always the argument that People don't read Signs. Well then, Why have any at all? So, that's a stupid argument. At least its Doing Something. Maybe it will deter some and the odds of tragedy go down. Again, its doing something. Its Sending a Message. There just needs to be More. I've made suggestions in the past. Sandwich Boards in path. Text painted on Path and Buildings about Behavior and Respect. Painting the Barriers Red. Behavior Announcement at Entry, in Cafe. All decent and doable suggestions in my opinion. Nothing. Here's a new one, stenciling the words, Stay Off Barrier, continuously across the Barriers? And Signs saying just that, where stenciling isn't doable. Three simple words. ... Additionally all Windows Need some simple words. Do Not Knock on Glass.
That about covers the Signage issue. Getting the Message out. I have made a few Videos that show some of the Exhibit Barriers. They will be posted soon, in a separate post. No time now to piece clips together and since I'm near done with writing this, I want to post it.
Its curious to me all the attention paid to building Exhibits to Keep Animals In, which doesn't lend to keeping People Out. If Exhibits were built to Keep People Out, wouldn't that also lend to Keeping Animals In?
It is my opinion that the Black Rhinos is the most Vulnerable and needs a secondary Barrier of Solid Glass. It is the most Abused Barrier, and the distance to the edge is shortest at Black Rhinos, with the Animal able to be at the drop line. Black Rhinos, Hippo and Polar Bear are the three Code Red Exhibits that Visitors hang their Kids over the most. They are the ones that are most dangerous because a Kid can fall in at any time. While Parents may think they have a good grip on the Kid, accidents have been proven to happen. Parents can lose their grip to any number of things, including a wiggling Kid and someone accidentally bumping into them from behind.
Someone Dropping their Kid into an Exhibit, is more likely, but obviously there are other circumstances. In the most recent Tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo, the Parent wasn't even watching their Kid. Then there's the People who Intentionally enter an Exhibit, for whatever reason.
Should Innocent Animals Lose their Lives for any of these reason's? I say No. None of these are "accidents" in my opinion. All preventable. People need to watch their Kids and other members of their Group. People need to Stay the Hell off the Barriers. People need to stay the Hell out of the Exhibits. Note to those who enter voluntarily, tell someone as you're going in so an Animal isn't Murdered because you want to Commit Suicide or try to Pet it.
That all said, what does our San Francisco Zoo plan to do to protect these Animals in their Homes? Will there be the addition of Glass at Code Red Animals? From what I've seen a full week later nothing. If there was even talk of doing something, why no Temporary Signs to Remind Visitors to Respect Barriers?
I was once told in reference to Signs, "they cost money". Is that the problem? Cause I have to believe there is someone on staff in that place that thinks there should be more Signs. Is the cost of paper, ink and laminating too much? I don't want to hear them crying poor. Like all the other things that are In Need and don't get done, why is that? Is it on the Director and her Fundraising capabilities? Is it on the Donors for not caring to fund In Need Animals? I have wondered if the Director goes before Donors and says point blank, look, while we'd love to have new Animals , new Exhibits, the reality is this is what we need? I highly doubt it, or if she does, shame on Donors who are only concerned with funding their own preferences while In Need Animals get shafted and exhibits fail to be updated. One Word: Chimps.