Lowry Park training lags others’
Last Edited: Thursday, 24 Aug 2006, 6:29 PM EDT
Created: Thursday, 24 Aug 2006, 6:29 PM EDT
How much experience do you need in order to tangle with tigers?
Tanya Arja reports
State investigates Lowry after tiger shooting
TAMPA – Tigers are beautiful animals, but they are dangerous. So much so that, at Busch Gardens in Tampa, zookeepers have to go through a strict training process before they can get anywhere near them.
"There’s really no time period. Generally it takes about three months to nine months. It takes as long as it takes, because safety is our top priority," explained the park’s Glenn Young.
At Big Cat Rescue in north Hillsborough County, an employee has to work for at least a year and a half before they can even apply to work with the tigers. Then they have to train for three months to a year under direct supervision.
It’s in sharp contrast to the zookeeper at Lowry Park Zoo who failed to lock a gate, allowing Enshala to escape. He had only been at the zoo for one month and had worked with the tigers for just three weeks.
The president of Lowry Park Zoo defends their training practices.
"He appeared to be doing very well, was trained in the area. All indications showed that he showed good judgment and was progressing well," offered Lex Salisbury, the zoo’s CEO.
So why the differences in training? There are no state or federal requirements for how long someone must train before working with a captive animal.
FOX 13 spoke to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the American Zoo Association. No one seems to know why there are no requirements.
The American Zoo Association says it’s up to each facility to make sure zookeepers are ready for the job.
When asked if one-month training was long enough, the executive director said, "if, in the judgment of the facility, that person was capable of handling the tasks by themselves, that is up to them."
But he also said that just one-month’s time, whether it’s working with tigers or birds, would be hard for anyone.
Keep in mind experience doesn’t always protect you. Back in 2002, a lion bit off the arm of a zookeeper at Busch Gardens. She had just fed the animal and investigators believe she had her fingers still wrapped around a bar of the cage. And an elephant killed a veteran zookeeper at Lowry Park in 1993.
State and federal agencies are looking into Enshala’s death and whether Lowry Park Zoo violated the Animal Welfare Act. But they believe Lowry Park Zoo may change their own procedures to reflect some of their counterparts’.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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