Monday, March 19, 2007

NZ zoo hushed up cheetah attack

By RUTH HILL - Sunday Star Times
Sunday, 18 March 2007

Wellington Zoo has been accused of endangering public safety to protect its lucrative "rent-a-cheetah " programme after revelations a big cat attacked two zoo keepers during a staff meeting.

Animal advocacy group Safe says the incident, which happened six months ago, was hushed up by zoo bosses.

Safe campaign director Hans Kriek said zoo visitors were allowed direct contact with the same cheetah soon after the attack, and within days, it was taken out for a school visit.

The zoo has been running its "cheetah encounter" programme since late 2005, hiring out Charlie and Delta for private events for a $2500 appearance fee.

The animals and their trainers have attended private parties, a pet store opening, university lectures, primary schools and an A&P show.

The zoo also sells encounters with the animals, where the public can meet and pet them in a special enclosure for $195.

A source told the Sunday Star-Times that a zoo keeper was bitten on the neck in August after a senior animal trainer lost control of a cheetah he had brought to a staff meeting.

The cheetah then attacked a zoo volunteer, biting him on the ankle.

Witnesses said the trainer then pinned the animal to the ground with his body and punched it hard several times in the face.

Last January, lion keeper Bob Bennett was mauled by two lions after he assumed a senior trainer, who had been in the enclosure with him, had locked the gate.

Kriek said staff who witnessed the attack were ordered by zoo management to "keep it quiet".

Safe intends to lodge a complaint with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry requesting an immediate investigation and the suspension of all public interactions with cheetahs. "If these claims prove to be correct, Wellington Zoo management must be held accountable and the cheetah encounter and rent-a-cheetah programmes terminated," Kriek said.

He said there was "widespread disquiet" among zoo staff about the zoo's increasingly commercial focus.

The Department of Labour confirmed it had received an informal complaint in September about the incident.

Occupational Safety and Health Wellington service manager Alan Cooper said inspectors contacted zoo authorities and established it was "a relatively minor incident". He was satisfied "all appropriate steps were taken" and the zoo had good hazard management systems in place.

Zoo chief executive Karen Fifield said the incident had been an "unusual situation" and she was confident the encounter programme was safe. She said the keeper who was attacked was "bruised" but the animal's teeth did not puncture his skin.

"These cheetahs have been involved in over 500 encounters since September 2005 without incident. The keeper in this case made an error of judgement but since then we have reviewed our protocols."

Osh and Maf had reviewed safety procedures and were happy with them.

The trainer had been disciplined.

She said the zoo had changed its policy and now had "very strict" rules about where cheetahs were allowed off-site.

Fifield denied the zoo had attempted to hush up the incident "but we didn't want rumours and innuendo flying around, we wanted the chance to investigate fully and establish the facts and debrief staff properly".

She said there were "sensitivities" around privacy issues and management had to be mindful of making public comment. "It's a shame that Safe refuses to engage with us one-on-one in this."

Friday, March 16, 2007

Woman mauled by lions at Zimbabwe wildlife park

By Janine du Plessis
March 15 2007 at 12:07PM

An Australian embassy worker is recovering in a Pretoria hospital after being attacked by lions at a wildlife park outside Harare earlier this month.

Gemma Huggins, 27, was the second diplomatic worker mauled by lions at the park and now safety concerns have been raised about conditions at the park.

In 2005 a Japanese embassy employee died of her injuries in a similar attack at the same park.

Unitas Hospital has confirmed that Huggins is recovering well and that her doctors "are happy with her progress", but referred further media inquiries to the Australian High Commission.

Apparently Huggins, who had only just taken up her post at the embassy in Harare, went to visit the Lion and Cheetah Park outside Harare with her boyfriend on Sunday, March 4 when she was mauled.

Unconfirmed reports claim she was picked up by her head and shaken but her boyfriend was able to fight the lions off.

She is believed to have been treated at a hospital in Harare before being transported to Unitas Hospital, where she spent several days in the intensive care unit.

The Australian High Commission in Pretoria only confirmed there had been an incident but would not release further details.

"She is being treated in hospital but her injuries are not life-threatening. The staff member and her family have asked that their privacy be respected," said the spokesperson.

In 2005, Xinhuanet, a Japan-based news website, reported that a 50-year-old Japanese national attached to the Japanese Embassy in Harare had died from wounds she sustained when a pride of lions attacked her at the Lion and Cheetah Park. &art_id=vn20070315102105697C136270

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Zoo tiger bites off woman's arm in the former Yugoslavia

The Associated Press
Published: March 13, 2007

PODGORICA, Montenegro: A Siberian tiger at a private zoo in Montenegro bit off an arm of a woman who tried to feed the animal.

Slavka Sekulovic, 58, had put her arm into the cage with two Siberian tigers when one of them grabbed it and bit it off, said doctor Zoran Srzentic who admitted the woman at a nearby hospital.

Srzentic said that Sekulovic's life is not in danger, though she remained in shock after losing a lot of blood.

"The tiger just wouldn't let it go," he added.

The tigers were brought into Montenegro last year from Bosnia. The authorities initially had detained three people on suspicion of smuggling the animals — which are considered endangered species — but no formal charges were raised. europe/EU-GEN-Montenegro-Siberian-Tiger.php