We all remember the tragic story of Vince, a rhino who was killed in 2017 for his horn in the Thoiry Zoo. Small animal thefts, such as monkeys, are also committed several times a year. A question then arises: how do zoos ensure the safety of their animals?
Very safe zoos
“It all depends on the size of the parks and their configuration, indicates Rodolphe Delord, President of the zooParc de Beauval and President of the Association of French Zoos. In Beauval, we were victims of monkey theft a few years ago. We have since strengthened the security system, which is very important. We have many security guards day and night, alarm system, video surveillance cameras, and we are also in constant contact with the gendarmerie. As we receive a lot of publicity, there is also the guard post that has been put in place “.
Vince’s murder also had consequences. “At Beauval, we have plenty rhinoceros, so we added alarm systems and cameras, which is the case for almost all parks. And like many parks, we also have night guards who are more aware of where the rhinos are. “
As for the animals, these are not necessarily handed over in the evening to be placed in enclosed buildings. “These are questions we ask ourselves about animals that would be easy to take away, such as turtlesexplains Rudy Wedlarski, veterinarian at Bioparc in Doué-la-Fontaine. But if we look at the birds, which live in very large aviaries, in addition to animal welfare, it is much less easy to catch a parrot in a room of one hectare and 15 meters high than when he was trapped inside at night in a small cage.”
Which animals are stolen the most?
The stolen species are mainly small monkeys, small reptiles and parrots. There are several reasons for this. “First of all, there is simply the physical question: it is still much easier to steal an animal weighing 5 kg and 30 cm than a giraffe!”remembers Rudy Wedlarski.
Most stolen animals provide food for the wildlife trade. Rare animals are therefore more sought after. “And if the plane responds to an order, the person who ordered it must then be able to house the animal. Then a Lion in a zoo at night, it is already very complicated and the person must have the facilities. A lion in his garden, it is not very discreet! ” Dangerous species are therefore rarely concerned.
If possible, the Director of Beauval confirms that “Thefts in zoos remain unusual, even if they are all too obvious thefts. Any activity can one day be robbed, even the Bank of France.” A feeling shared by Rudy Wedlarski: “Every zoo and the people who work there are very attached to their animals, so any theft or attempted burglary would be traumatic. But I do not think we are a primary target. It happens, but it is really very rare. . ” .
Sometimes unruly visitors
For several years now, more and more people have taken risks to get the perfect selfie. A 2021 study revealed that at least 379 people have died worldwide as they tried to take their picture since 2008, a number that is constantly rising.
And zoos are no exception. If no visitor has currently tried to enter the enclosure of an animal in Beauval or Bioparc for a good picture or to see the animals up close, this is not the case for other zoos.
“In zoos, everything is done to ensure that people are safe and avoid accidents, such as falls. For dangerous species, there are distance rules, safety barriers, etc. So you can not spontaneously put yourself in danger. But if someone unreasonably deliberately tried to do something insane, it would take time but you will never stop anyone from doing it “explains the Bioparc veterinarian.
In 2019, a tourist jumped over security barriers at an Arizona zoo to take a selfie with a jaguar. The cat had then planted its claws in his arm. In 2017, it was a man who was attacked by a polar bear, again after stepping over the security barriers to take a selfie.
If these two stories ended well, that is not always the case. A few weeks ago, a tiger in a Florida zoo had to be put down. A maintenance man had also bypassed the security barriers to iron the animal through the fences in the enclosure and had been attacked.
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