Laurie and I were donors of fairly large donations to the SF Zoo for a number of years. We finally moved our donation money elsewhere for a a number of reasons, some of which included it being far enough away that we simply didn’t get up there very often, and when we went to member functions like night tours, they were so crowded they weren’t worth it.
But the big reason we pulled our funding was how poorly the facility was handling the upkeep and upgrading of its facilities (to be fair, at that time, the zoo was under the control of the City, which did an incredibly bad job of funding and a worse job of allowing the zoo to work around the city’s poor funding — since resolved by spinning the zoo out of City control). The zoo seemed to always have great plans to upgrade the facilities and poor ability to actually implement them.
The San Francisco Zoo is infamous for the Siberian Tiger escape that killed one person, but there have been cases of handlers injured during feeding, and now this tragic death of a gorilla.
This was shot at that facility on my last trip in 2010. There’s a common theme among all three of the problems I mention: the two Tiger attacks both happened in WPA-era facilities that were planned for upgrades but never were; the Gorilla facility was built around 1980 and is 30 years old; the cause of death of the baby gorilla seems to be a combination of some operator inattention and a door without basic safety equipment (no beam alarm like every garage on every house has had for 25 years) and poorly designed and operating door mechanics.
I felt the facility the gorillas live in looked shabby on my last visit; state of the art clearly has moved on and the Zoo hasn’t updated the facility to match that. This lack of investment in facilities now has led to the death of their gorilla.
And unfortunately, given the people who have led the zoo over the years and the board that backs them, none of this surprises me. Which explains why they don’t get any of our money any more, and why my last visit there was four years ago…
this is an incredibly sad event, should have been 100% preventable, but wasn’t, and that just reinforces my belief that this zoo needs a complete reinvention starting with their executive and leadership teams. I don’t blame the handlers and the people on the ground, it’s not their fault the facilities at this zoo are so far behind state of the art.