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Published: Tuesday, 11/6/2012

Exhibits at Toledo Zoo safe, director declares

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Zoo Director Jeff Sailer, speaking in response to the mauling of a child at the Pittsburg Zoo and PPG Aquarium, said on Monday that Toledo’s animal exhibits are laid out in such a way that neither a child or adult could fall into them.

“Basically, we always have safety on the mind,” Mr. Sailer said. “Anytime something like this happens around the nation, we re-evaluate our own programs and exhibits to make sure there's nothing we can do differently. We make sure there are no potential issues we've overlooked.”

Zoo employees are re-evaluating each of the Toledo Zoo's exhibits to make sure there are no possibilities for accidents, he said.

In Pittsburgh on Sunday, a 2-year-old fell off a wooden railing into the African painted dogs exhibit.

He was mauled to death by the animals, one of which was shot and killed by police.

Officials say the child's mother had placed the boy on a wooden rail above the exhibit so he could get a better look at the animals. There is a net below the rail, but Pittsburgh Zoo officials said the boy bounced off it and into the enclosure.

The Toledo Zoo's only death of a visitor happened in 1972 when a 19-year-old Toledo man was killed by polar bears after he entered the exhibit.

The death of Richard Hale was ruled accidental because the man was under the influence of drugs.

That exhibit has since been removed and replaced by a living space that is impermeable by the public, Mr. Sailer said.

Several zoo keepers have been attacked by animals over the years, but they entered the exhibits via ways not available to the public.

The Toledo Zoo has one African painted dog on exhibit, a female named Boga who is just shy of 10 years old. Her exhibit is surrounded by a fence, Mr. Sailer said.

The zoo will be welcoming a pair of wild dingoes, which are related to dogs, to its new Australian exhibit next year. That exhibit also will be fenced, he said.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066.



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