A keeper at a Florida zoo who was the senior “big cat” keeper and was known as the “cat whisperer” was mauled and killed by her favorite tiger a day or two ago. This happens way too often. She was in the friggin’ cage with him. Wrong!
There are zoos that are “protected contact” and then zoos that are not. Protected contact means that you only interact with a potentially “killer” animal through some kind of protection. For example, at the Dallas zoo, the keepers are very intimate with the gorillas and chimps but always through heavy mesh fencing. Because of that, there is no way the keepers could be harmed by the animals. The Dallas zoo also adheres to protected contact with lions, tigers, mountain lions, etc. We are a protected contact zoo.
Gorillas are not “killers,” they are very gentle by nature, but because of their size and strength they could crush a keeper with an affectionate hug. Chimps on the other hand can be very aggressive and as cute as they can be, especially the babies, they are very dangerous. I am a huge believer in protected contact because our keepers at the Dallas zoo don’t get killed and never have and keepers at non-protected contact zoos have.
I get it. I know what happens. Keepers in non-protective become somehow immune to the fact that the animals they love and the animals they believe love them are wild animals. They begin to believe that their bond with the animals is something very special and different. They think the animals love them. And they might be right! But they are WILD! They turn on a dime.
I think keepers who love their animals might lose sight of this. These animals hear or see something out of the corner of their eye and they attack whatever is in front of them. I’ve seen chimps do this. Thats what happened in the recent killing of the keeper. Everything was fine until she turned her head and the tiger heard or saw something that was upsetting and attacked the first thing she saw, and someone she probably otherwise loved.
All I can say is “Siegfried and Roy.”