By Saikat Kumar Basu
Zoos, like any other organizations and institutions, have suffered occasionally due to security issues around the globe. From time to time, tragic incidents of people or children falling inside animal enclosures and being mercilessly killed by wild animals have sent shock waves around the planet. Such incidents have happened either due to lack of proper surveillance and monitoring on the part of zoo authorities or due to complete callousness of individuals who have either accidentally fallen inside cages or moved too close into an enclosure of a dangerous animal for taking selfies or for attempting to get a close photograph or video of a caged animal.
Often it has been reported that people under the impact of alcohol or drugs or some kind of religious context have voluntarily moved into cages or enclosure of ferocious wild animals like tigers or lions, and faced brutal attacks or have been mauled to death. Sometimes, trained zoo keepers have been attacked, too, by wild animals when they unfortunately forgot to keep the cage door closed, and they moved inside the cage or animal enclosure for servicing or cleaning or for the purpose of feeding the animals.
Sometimes animals have even attacked people unprovoked or when accidentally got out of their cage or enclosure due to safety breach or through some gaps or loopholes of the zoo security system. More than animal attacks, panic-stricken public have been involved in stampede in a rush to get out of the zoo, resulting in death and injury. Contrary to the common belief that such negligence and incidents happen only in developing and under developed nations with poor zoo management, several premier zoos around the globe, and that, too, in highly developed nations, have reported unfortunate accidents that have cost the lives of the human victim or the animal involved.
In many instances, unattended kids or children have fallen inside cages or enclosures and lost their lives or seriously injured or the animal has been shot to protect the children. Under any circumstances, accidents and security loopholes are quite common in zoos around the world, and there is opportunity to further strengthen the security system of the zoos for better management and also to protect the public from any such unfortunate incidents. A list of important measures has been listed below for both zoo authorities and public to ensure future security of zoo animals and public:
1. Restricting the number of visitors to the zoo to prevent mismanagement and chaos. An overcrowded zoo always runs the dangerous risk of unfortunate accidents, as help could not be extended at the hour of need due to overcrowding, confusion and chaos.
2. Placing security cameras in as many strategic locations as possible within the zoo campus for the central security management team to keep an eye for any possible threat or accident that may happen inside the zoo.
3. Leaving warning signs throughout the zoo and also to make the public aware that getting too close to zoo animals warranties unexpected danger, as these are not docile, human friendly pets, but rather dangerous wild animals confined to cages or enclosures for public display and education.
4. Public phone booth or kiosks should be placed throughout the zoo campus with the emergency security numbers mentioned clearly in the booths for fast reporting of any incident to the zoo security authorities.
5. Zoos must have some first aid treatment centers for minor injuries and efficient transport and communication system with major health centers or hospitals for rapid treatment of any accident victims.
6. A public addressing system should be installed so that zoo authorities could warn the public over loud speakers placed throughout the zoo campus for any emergency situation and guide them accordingly.
7. Trained security staff should be placed throughout the zoo campus to keep a direct eye on public behavior and also for the well-being of zoo animals.
8. Multiple security measures should be incorporated for zoo animals on public display; that may include proper caging or security glass wall between the display animal and the public, artificially increase the distance of the animal from the public by adding fencing, barbed wires, high drains, long and inaccessible walls and other engineering measures.
9. Regular inspection of cages and enclosures for identifying possible weaknesses and security loopholes.
10. Tranquilizer guns, fire crackers, safety sprays and other detractors for animals should be kept in zoos in case of emergency to break up the attacking animal from its human victim.
11. Appropriate tranquilizing dosages for different animals based on their body size and weight should be previously calculated and kept handy for application under emergency conditions. Animals should be killed when only no other viable options are available to protect a victim.
12. Zoo staff should be appropriately and professionally trained for handling any emergency situation within the zoo campus. They must be sensitized with various security challenges and how to address them effectively and efficiently.
13. Staff trained in handling dangerous situations and in firing dart guns to be employed by the zoo so that they can take control of the situation rather than being undecided or panicking at the crucial hour.
14. Encourage public to report any notable incident to the zoo security office immediately.
15. Strong legal and financial punishments to be enforced for alleged violators within zoo campus.
16. The public needs to be educated and made aware of the imminent dangers of breaching zoo security codes and their possible consequences.
17. Zoo authorities need to be more innovative, investigative and vigilant to report and monitor safety issues inside the zoos.
18. Any incident associated with zoo security and safety has to be reported, recorded, investigated and the recommendations are to be followed with utmost sincerity.
19. In simple terms, both zoo authorities and the general public need to work in close coordination and cooperation with one another to enhance zoo security in future.
20. An efficient surveillance and monitoring system can prevent most of the zoo accidents if carried out sincerely and diligently with professionalism.