POSTED: 6:18 pm HST March 5, 2008
UPDATED: 6:25 pm HST March 5, 2008
HONOLULU — Construction work began at the Honolulu Zoo to prevent another tiger escape.
Two weeks ago, the zoo’s only male tiger walked out of his enclosure after a zookeeper left two gates open.
KITV’s Keoki Kerr reported that the city is still adding up how much all this is going to cost. An emergency contract was quickly awarded for safety improvements to the zoo’s tiger exhibit, officials said.
A volunteer working that day said she was startled when the tiger walked by her, but she said she calmly relocked the gates once the tiger sauntered back into a holding area.
Zoo officials said they plan to give the woman an award for “outstanding performance.”
“When this gate had been left open, it was in that position — it could not have closed,” Enterprise Services Department Director Sidney Quintal said.
Quintal showed the safety improvements that are under way. An automatic hinge was already installed on the inside gate, and the same type of hinge device will be put on the outside gate.
“Now, we put tension on it, regardless if there’s a person here, once someone opens — then it’s locked,” Quintal said.
Workers from Okada Trucking cut fence posts for the new chain-link fence that will be installed around the back of the exhibit that will enclose the entire area in fencing so tigers won’t be able to jump out.
Previously, there was nothing stopping a tiger from walking over to a waist-high fence if it gets out of its enclosure.
“Had an animal gotten out of his habitat, he would still be confined out of the public area, which was our primary goal in any predator animal situation,” Quintal said.
Concrete fence footings and a slab also will be poured, assuring everything, including the tigers, stays put, Quintal said.
Zoo officials said they have concluded their investigation into the incident and recommended discipline against the zookeeper who left the gates open, but because it’s a personnel matter, they can’t disclose specifics.
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