Smart Safety Measures
To be included in this survey, all zoos had to meet the safety requirements of the American Zoo & Aquarium Association, which conducts on-site inspections of everything from the walkways to the alarm systems for escaped animals. Unfortunately, it's not foolproof.
The recent tragedy at the Dallas Zoo, where a gorilla escaped and injured three people, underscores the need for parents to keep safety in mind when visiting any zoo. Follow these suggestions from Child's advisory board of zoo professionals.
- Respect the animals. Loud noises, shouting, and horsing around may agitate animals. Some reports suggest that the gorilla at the Dallas Zoo was teased before it broke free. And don't feed the animals unless instructed otherwise; most are on special diets.
- Obey the rules. They're for your protection. Stay behind safety barriers at all exhibits, and make sure your little ones keep their hands out of the cages -- unless a zookeeper instructs them that it's okay to pet an animal in the children's zoo.
- Wash up frequently. If your child does pet an animal, immediately wash her hands to remove any possible E. coli, bacteria that can make her seriously ill. For the same reason, don't eat or drink near petting areas. If a pacifier, bottle, or sippy cup falls in this area, don't use it until you're able to sanitize it at home. Your best bet: Pack extra.
Originally published in the June/July 2004 issue of Child magazine.