CINCINNATI – Over 43 million people have safely enjoyed the Cincinnati Zoo’s Gorilla World exhibit without incident in the 38 years that it’s been open. That changed last Saturday when a young boy climbed over the public barrier, made his way through more than five feet of bushes and dropped into the moat. This breach resulted in the loss of Harambe, a beloved and endangered gorilla.
The Cincinnati Zoo has spent the last several days reevaluating the exhibit and will be making modifications to the public barrier before reopening the exhibit Tuesday, June 7.
The new barrier railing is 42” high with solid wood beams at the top and on the bottom with knotted rope netting. The previous barrier passed multiple inspections by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and adhered to safety guidelines.
“It takes hard work and a sustained commitment to excellence to meet AZA accreditation standards. Our exhibit goes above and beyond standard safety requirements, but in light of what happened, we have modified the outer public barrier to make entry even more difficult,” said Thane Maynard, Director of the Cincinnati Zoo.
Cincinnati Zoo has been an accredited member of the AZA for 38 years. The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. The inspecting team observes all aspects of the institution’s operation in areas such as animal care; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff, and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; visitor services; and other areas. AZA members are required to resubmit to this rigorous accreditation process every five years.
“In the case of this incident, which involved a child and a critically endangered animal, our collective goal is to take steps to assure it doesn’t happen again,” said Kris Vehrs, Interim President and CEO of AZA. “Incidents like this are very rare, and the AZA Accreditation Commission will continue working with our members so that AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums remain safe for the 183 million guests who visit each year.”