If you had a choice of color which one would you choose my brothers; If there was no day or night which would you prefer to be right
MARCH 30, 2011: In 2006 a malfunctioning thermostat at a pool at the Topeka Zoo jumped to crock pot setting and boiled a hippo to death.
Three years ago, a tiger got out of its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo and killed a visitor.
Last year seven animals — including a chimp and a snow leopard — died in one month at the Chattanooga Zoo because somebody forgot to check on the animals' feed.
And just this week the Bronx Zoo closed its reptile house to visitors because a deadly cobra has escaped and the staff doesn't have a clue where it's hiding.
But all those incidents pale in comparison to what happened a few years ago at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park.
What you are about to read will send chills down your spine, so take a deep breath first. Ready? Here goes:
Some of the mesh screen covering the bird exhibits needed to be replaced, a couple of roofs had leaks and some of the staff members didn't like the management style of the executive director.
I warned you that this was ugly.
The problems at the zoo were so egregious that the Association of Zoos & Aquariums yanked the accreditation of the Thompson Park zoo.
And what about the zoos in Topeka, San Francisco, Chattanooga and the Bronx? If you go to the AZA website you will notice that they are all still accredited because — and we can only speculate — having zoo patrons die, losing animals, boiling animals or forgetting to feed your animals is not in and of itself a reason to lose your accreditation.
The Thompson Park Conservancy, which oversees the zoo, has been thinking about making another run for accreditation, although as you can imagine some of my fellow board members still get a nervous tic when anyone mentions AZA.
Accreditation is important in that it tells patrons that nationally recognized standards are being followed. It tells potential employees that they are being recruited by a nationally recognized facility. And it helps volunteer board members get an outsider's perspective of its zoo and not just a closed loop view from staff.
But it costs more than $5,000 to pay for AZAers to fly in and do the review. And there is paperwork. And there is a lot of contemplating your own navel.
Former zoo director John Scott Foster helped guide us to a place where an accreditation can be launched as all the issues with exhibits outlined by the AZA have been corrected. New Director John Wright is fully capable of helping bring accreditation about when the moment comes.
And board members are beginning to figure out which of us is suitable for meeting with AZA representatives to tell our zoo's story.
(I have already been taken off the “welcome wagon” list as it is feared I would make one of my snarky “See? No dead people or murdered animals here!” comments and ruin the visit.)
Our zoo staff and private and business donors have helped create a gem here in Watertown. Because we have a large donor base and have avoided being totally dependent on government money, we have weathered the recession better than many other zoos.
And one day we will be back on that elusive accreditation list. All we have to do is make sure the right board members are on vacation when the AZA shows up to see the place.