Oregon Zoo cuts off lion's tail in front of guests during a show and tries to downplay the incident.
As frightening and intimidating as many wild animals can seem, humans gawk over these majestic animals like gorillas, bears, and lions everyday of the year at zoos worldwide. Part of the wonder of seeing these animals up close in exhibits is that they can’t hurt you because they’re locked up inside, but lately there have been several incidents in which humans are hurting them from the outside. Unfortunately for one ‘king of the jungle’ from the Oregon Zoo, this is exactly what happened when a door closed on his tail at the beginning of a show.
As soon as Zawadi, the male lion on exhibit at the zoo, was released to perform a show for his patrons, his tail got caught in the hydraulic door he routinely walks through and this tragedy became the real show. In the unfortunate accident, Zawadi had his tail cut off by the door simply because he hesitated in the doorway for a moment and the lion began to bleed profusely in front of concerned guests.
He was supposed to give his visitors a big cat training session and, despite the obvious blood and pain the lion was in, the host of the show remained oblivious to what had happened, only stopping after the guests yelled out how badly Zawadi was bleeding.
To add to the tragedy, the host attempted to downplay the accident, claiming that it was just a little scratch and that lions are used to fighting and obtaining injuries in the wild. This was meant to calm the guests, as the host said that the injury shouldn’t bother Zawadi too much. Thankfully, the zoo organizers knew something of a larger magnitude had occurred and pulled the lion out in order for him to be attended to by the zoo’s veterinarians.
The Oregon Zoo animal curator, Michael Illig, acknowledged the incident and vowed to make sure it doesn’t happen again. He said,
“You always feel badly when an animal you care for is hurt. We’ll be reviewing all the details of the situation, from the building to the mechanics to our protocols, in order to make sure this cannot happen again.”
Oregon Zoo’s Becca Van Beek, one of the keepers, explained in an interview with Fox 12 that the door was indeed hydraulic, and went on to say,
“We are looking into exactly what happened. We are investigating all the stuff that happened, going over protocols, mechanics so it doesn’t happen again but that is still being worked on.”
“It’s really unfortunate again because it happened during this demo when all these kids were so excited to see him and we appreciate the opportunity to let everyone know he is really doing well,” she added. “We’ve had a lot of people very concerned about how he is doing and he is doing well.”
Though the incident seemed very serious, the zoo stressed that it was just the tip of the lion’s tail that was affected. In a video taken from the audience, it even looks like Zawadi hesitated before meeting with vets back inside the enclosure because he was focused on eating meatballs within the show area.
Hopefully this occurrence will cause zoo officials to reevaluate the way the hydraulic door works because all it took was a moment of hesitation on Zawadi’s part for his tail to get caught and him to be easily injured. If the door’s functions are operated manually, it’s possible that this was a human error and that precautions need to be taken when deciding when it’s safe to shut the door.
No matter what the cause was, it’s clear that the protocols really do need to be investigated in order to prevent this from happening to any of the other animals, so hopefully the zoo follows through with reviewing the situation.
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