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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From the News: "Baboon Killed After Escaping from British Zoo"

Baboon Killed After Escaping From British Zoo

An animal escape is never a pleasant situation to deal with, especially when the animal involved is a potentially dangerous one.  With the exception of a parakeet flying off into the sunset, every escape that I've been present for has ended satisfactorily, with the animal back in its enclosure safe and sound.  Nine times out of ten, all I've had to do is give the critter a clear pathway to get home and it's gone willingly enough on its own; the typical escaped animal is scared, confused, and just wants to get back to where it knows it belongs.  All you need to do is give it a chance to calm down.

That being said, when the escapee in question is a dangerous one - a big cat, a bear, a large primate - things can get hairy.  Giving the animal "a chance to calm down" may be a luxury that you can't afford.  Through visitors and non-animal staff into the mix and the chance for danger increases dramatically; they may panic or agitate the animal, startle it into dangerous action, or (worse yet) mistake themselves for action heroes and try to capture it themselves (I've seen it... never works out too well).   It's an even greater challenge when the escape spills out from the (relative) control of a zoological facility into the outside world.

The decision to use lethal force against an escapee is never one to take lightly.  I skimmed the comments section after the article and read a lot of posts demanding to know why tranquilizers weren't used.  These drugs can take a while to take effect, and it can be hard to predict how an adrenaline-crazed animal is going to respond to the dosage (this is not TV - the animal doesn't feel the pin-prick and then pass out on the spot).  I wouldn't presume to Monday-morning quarterback on whatever happened at this zoo.  I am, however, sorry for their loss.  I can't say if I would have made the same call that they did or not - again, wasn't there, didn't see what happened - but I know it couldn't have been an easy call.

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