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Columbus Zoo visitors and staff respond to assault on Zoo animals

The mountain lion enclosure is in the North America region of the Columbus Zoo, near the bobcats and the wolverines.
The mountain lion enclosure is in the North America region of the Columbus Zoo, near the bobcats and the wolverines.
Andrew Kennett

Saturday, October 8 was a pleasant day in Columbus, the perfect day to take advantage of the half-price admission to the Columbus Zoo for Experience Columbus Days. Unfortunately for some Zoo visitors, this day had an ugly side despite the sunshine and warm temperatures.

In the early afternoon hours, three men were observed throwing rocks and sticks into the mountain lion enclosure and specifically at the mountain lions themselves. The men were verbally accosted by at least one Zoo visitor, but they refused to desist from their behavior. When they resumed throwing objects into the mountain lion enclosure, another Zoo visitor immediately called the Columbus Zoo’s main number in order to report the behavior. Seeing this call be made, the three men fled from the area, and one of the three removed the distinctive cap he was wearing.

Almost immediately, however, Columbus Zoo security officers were on scene to take witness statements and to detain the three men pending their arrest. According to these officers, no fewer than four groups of Zoo visitors, not including the group that made the initial call, had stopped them on their way to the scene in order to give statements about the men’s actions.

As detestable as the actions of these men were, the reactions of both Columbus Zoo visitors and staff helped restore some sense of human decency. The quick reporting of the incident, the multiple groups giving witness statements, and the rapid and professional response of the security team combined to allow the three men to be caught and to allow the keeper staff to be alerted to monitor the animals for any injury.

When the Columbus Zoo was named the Number One Zoo in America, it was easy to credit this level of success to the keepers and other animal care staff, to the docents, to those involved with guest relations, to the conservation and education staff, and to all of those who are visibly involved with making a zoo great. After this incident on Saturday, it should be just as apparent that it also due to those who make sure the animals are kept safe and the Zoo itself kept a pleasant and inviting atmosphere. And it should also be apparent that it is also an involved and caring community of visitors that help keep the Columbus Zoo so great.


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