Kelli Buck often brings her 4-year-old son, Gavin, and 1-year-old daughter, Kesli to the Buffalo Zoo. She said safety is always on the agenda. “I keep them close. We talk about not putting our hands through railings and how animals are always wild even when they're in a cage,” she explained.
Still, during busy summer days, Buffalo Zoo President and CEO Donna Fernandes estimates a handful of children are reported missing daily. “If you just glance away, it can happen within a split second.”
That can be a scary thought for a parent surrounded by wild animals.
Buffalo’s gorilla exhibit is indoors and that is a distinct difference from the exhibit in Cincinnati. The exhibit in Cincinnati has an outdoor, moat style which allowed the child to squeeze through a railing.
“The moat is usually a sufficient barrier to keep the animals contained. But that's predicated on the fact you're not going to have someone jump into the moat. Then the moat doesn't work so well. It's designed to keep animals in, not people out,” Fernandes explained.
The Buffalo Zoo does use moat style exhibits for its lions and tigers. “I'm a little more comfortable because we have that solid vertical as opposed to the horizontal which allows children to squeeze through.”
Fernandes said protocols are in place with Buffalo swat and Buffalo Police should the zoo experience an incident similar to Cincinnati.
“It’s unfortunate. One would hope that it doesn't. But certain species are on the kill list like a tiger or a lion. An adult male gorilla is on that kill list because they can pose a threat,” Fernandes said.
School trips are required to have one adult chaperone per 10 children. Fernandes said they may consider putting restrictions on individual families, too.