The tiger escape at the San Francisco Zoo was a horrible tragedy. I have been asked by many people my opinion, seeing that I am in the “zoo industry”. More than anything else, this incident has caused me to reflect on the safety and security of our animals and exhibits at the Museum.
First and foremost, let me assure you that our bear compound is a completely different situation than the tiger exhibit in San Francisco, and is safe for containment of black bears. The body mechanics and jumping abilities of tigers are completely different than that of black bears. You can see Gus, soaking wet, standing at the edge of the pool in the photo: our bears would not be able to leap from the pools out of the exhibit.
In designing our bear exhibit, we worked with animal exhibit design specialists. What you cannot see from the visitors’ perspective is a variety of containment measures. The moat is not only deep enough, but it is a wet moat: meaning, bears cannot get footing on the bottom of the moat and reach up the wall because they are swimming. Below, you can see Virginia floating in the moat. Also, the walls themselves are shear, meaning there are no handholds for the bears to grab onto.
There’s a lot of other prevention work the Keepers do regularly- daily, weekly, monthly, etc. I’ll fill you in on things in a future post, but for now, rest assured, all is well at the Museum.