Chattanooga Zoo responds to Ohio gorilla incident - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chattanooga Zoo responds to Ohio gorilla incident

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The situation at the Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend, has prompted safety concerns at zoo's nationwide including here locally. 
The Chattanooga Zoo has more than 500 animals and 50 of those are considered dangerous. With that many animals in close quarters with young children, zoo officials say safety is their main concern. 

Zoo officials in Chattanooga say they've taken extreme measures to ensure enclosure safety. Still on some enclosures, any child actively trying to get in, can.

"The truth is no matter how tall you build or how you create the exhibit, if someone really wanted to get in often times they can," said Darde Long, CEO Chattanooga Zoo.  " They'll go to extremes, even adults climb over huge barriers....children they're so small they can sometimes find that tiny little gap and just squeeze right through."

Long is heartbroken by the video of a 400 pound Silverback Gorilla, dragging a 3-year-old boy who fell into an Ohio gorilla enclosure on Saturday. The zoo's dangerous animal response team used lethal force on 17-year-old Harambe, to rescue the child. Long agrees under the circumstances it was the right move, but certainly not an easy one. 
"You know it was shock, it was horror, absolute pain and anguish for everybody involved," said Long. 

Chattanooga's Zoo doesn't have gorillas but they do have other class one dangerous animals like cougars and chimpanzees, their cages are checked every day. 

"For those of us that have been involved in the care of animals in general especially great apes, those bonds you form are just like family. Those animals are so intelligent," said Long. 

The zoo also practices emergency drills each month to practice scenarios involving an animal escape and human injury, they're not taking any chances. Parents visiting the zoo say they're holding onto their kids a little tighter after the Ohio incident. 

"Gotta keep them close, gotta keep our children close to us," said one parent Stephen Bray.  

Official say others are known to push the limits, by climbing fences and barriers to get a closer look. 

"Even if you get close enough you should never do that because your going to get bitten," said Long. 

Workers are constantly patrolling, but they can't watch everyone. That's why zoo officials ask visitors to respect the animals, so they'll respect you too. 

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