Zoo emergency procedures effectively activated


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5 March 2009

The effectiveness of Hamilton Zoo’s emergency procedures was reinforced today when a chimpanzee gained access to a service area connected to the Chimpanzee enclosure.

Luka, the youngest male chimp, accessed the service area at 10.40am while the Zoo’s chimpanzees were being contained in their internal enclosure. Zoo Keeper Catherine Nichols observed Luka in the service area [used only by staff and not accessible to the public] and immediately activated the facility’s emergency procedure.

The door located between the enclosure and service area is secured by a reinforced spring-latch plus a lock however the double-lock mechanism was not secured and the chimps’ curious nature lead to the manipulation of the spring lock.

The emergency procedure when an animal categorised as dangerous is identified outside of its enclosure includes the mobilisation of the Armed Offender Squad (AOS) and the onsite firearms handler. This was instigated immediately, as was clearing all public from the vicinity, blocking all access ways to the area, summoning the zoo veterinarian and notifying all zoo staff to assume emergency procedure roles. Around 30 Genesis Energy staff who were working in the chimpanzee’s outside enclosure as part of an organisational community service programme were promptly escorted out a safe exit.

Zoo Director Stephen Standley said that at no time were the public at risk, as Luka remained within the confines of the service area.

“While Luka was contained in the service area during the incident, it was critical to apply full security measures. It was the swift and calm response by the zoo keepers combined with their intricate knowledge of the animals’ behaviour and that of the individual which resulted in an excellent resolution of the situation and minimisation of any risk to the public or to the animal itself.”

Mrs Nichols with the assistance of other zoo staff were able to safely access the internal door between the service area and enclosure, easing it open and enticing Luka back to the enclosure around midday.

Mr Standley said occurrences like this are extremely rare however it is precisely why critical emergency procedures are in place.

“We will now be reviewing the incident to identify important learnings and how security of the enclosure can be further enhanced.”

Name: Stephen Standley
Designation: Hamilton Zoo Director
Tel (Direct): 07 838 6954
Mobile: 021 912 113
Fax (Direct): 07 838 6960
Name: Sarah Bettle
Designation: Communication manager
Tel (Direct): 07 838 6507
Mobile: 021 428 748
Fax (Direct): 07 838 6761
Page reviewed: 05 Mar 2009 12:00am