As humans, we often forget that animals are not completely like us. Just look at your average dog or cat that might attack you or other human beings for random reasons. While house pets can be a handful at times, they tend to be more tolerant than larger wild animals. Zoos and Nature Reserves are often bringing in animals from the wild, which can lead to some of the worst things that ever happened at zoos. Mostly because those wild tendencies are tough to break for many.
Some might grow up their entire lives in captivity. One would assume those captive creatures might not develop as many wild tendencies. Yet this is not always the case. That is why several problems can happen at these establishments. Random attacks on human visitors can make reserves or zoos look bad to the public, yet they might also attack employees. Moreover, they can be horribly taken care of, leading to several problems beyond that. Follow along as we dive into some of the worst things that ever happened at zoos.
A Rhino Was Shot By Poachers At A French Zoo
Establishment: Thoiry Zoo
Location: Thoiry, Yvelines, France
Conservation efforts have been in place for rhinos for many years, especially the white rhinoceros. Sadly, we’ve already pretty much lost one species of white rhino entirely. Yet this has not stopped poachers from killing rhinos all throughout Africa. It was assumed if we moved various species of rhino to zoos all over the world, we might be able to keep them from being targeted by the criminal underworld that wants to sell their horns. Sadly, Thoiry Zoo/Safari did not protect one of its rhinos well.
The French zoo had a 4-year-old rhino named Vince who had been doing well at their establishment. However, in March of 2017, poachers broke into the zoo and killed Vince. Zoo officials came across the rhino’s deceased body the very next day with his horn sawed off. They even tried to saw off his second horn but could not do so. While it was always possible, the French authorities had never seen anything like this. It was clearly one of the worst things that ever happened at zoos in France.
Tiger Attacks Happen When You Don’t Pay Attention To The Rules
Establishment:Badaling Wildlife Park
If you head to Beijing, China and want to check out a drive-through zoo of sorts, the Badaling Wildlife Park might be a fun visit for you. However, it should be noted that attacks on humans have happened here as the entire park pretty much allows the animals to roam free. That is why they tell visitors to never get out of their vehicle and even say to keep their windows up. Of course, some do not listen such as one woman in July of 2016 who got out of her car.
A white tiger attacked the woman and drug her off, and her friend went after her. Somehow, the original woman was critically injured but made it out of alive while her caring friend was mauled and killed by another tiger. While this is one of the worst things that ever happened at zoos anywhere, we mostly have to blame the women. They were told what “NOT” to do and did it anyway, knowing wild animals like tigers were possibly around them.
Before we get started, it should be noted that PETA has been fighting to get the Waccatee Zoological Farm shut down for years now. PETA might get a bit up in arms about some stuff but, in this case, it’s justified. They have been responsible for some of the worst things that have ever happened at zoos. . Mistreatment of animals is not all that uncommon at some zoos but it’s blatantly obvious here. It is not so much beating the animals but, rather, psychologically mistreating them.
This zoo is home to big predatory cats, bears, and several primates. You can see them swaying or rolling their heads quite often here. People have even witnessed a macaque and capuchin biting and attacking themselves, shaking, drooling, and more. These are all signs of severe psychological stress among animals. It could be happening for many reasons too. Lack of space, food, water, etc. could be a root cause. PETA uncovered far more problems here, which is why they want it shut down.
African Wild Dogs are not like your regular canine at home. They are powerful wild beasts that are capable of taking down a lion or giraffe. Due to being in Africa, they have to regularly compete with other predators for food. They often go after smaller creatures, which might include unsuspecting humans if hungry enough. This was proven at the Pittsburgh Zoo in 2012 when a 2-year-old boy managed to get too close to the railing of the African Wild Dog exhibit. He fell into the exhibit but managed to actually land in a netted area of the enclosure.
While some might assume this would protect him, the netting is hard to get out of for a toddler. Plus the dogs can actually access it. That led to the wild dogs mauling the young child. To their credit, zookeepers immediately took action and were able to get the dogs off of the boy… except for one. That dog then had to be shot and killed. The boy did not survive and the family came to a settlement with the Zoo in court. Naturally, this incident was one of the worst things that ever happened at zoos in the PA area.
While Indonesia has been known to have some, shall we say, “problems” over the years as a nation, they’re also terrible with animals too, it seems. In fact, the Bandung Zoo is home to some of the worst things that ever happened at zoos anywhere on the planet. In January 2017, a video hit the internet of bears in the Bandung Zoo begging for food. They are trapped and unable to get it for themselves, making them heavily reliant on the zookeepers.
The video shows most of the bears reaching a skeletal level with hair partially gone for some. This made the bears resort to eating their own feces. Just a year prior in May 2016, an elephant named Yani was chained up at the zoo. It appeared as if she had been beaten as she was seen covered in bruises and even paralyzed by the time she passed. In fact, some zoo patrons claimed to be able to hear the elephant crying. This type of treatment is heartless and terrible.
While the Bronx Zoo is usually a pretty good zoo without a lot of major issues, they are responsible for at least one terrible situation. Most of the time, whenever a venomous snake is brought into a zoo, they attempt to remove the venom sacs if they plan to never reintroduce it back into the wild. Yet some zoos only get animals for a limited time and cannot do such drastic things. That was very well what happened at Bronx Zoo with a very venomous Egyptian Cobra.
It managed to actually escape the zoo by slipping out of its glass enclosure somehow. Zookeepers did a zoo-wide sweep while others searched outside the zoo. Funny enough, the cobra was just 100 feet away from its exhibit. The zookeeps then managed to lure it back into its enclosure. While this is one of the worst things that ever happened at zoos in the New York area, the snake became pretty famous. As a result, the snake started its own Twitter account to discuss its latest adventures and its take on society. Honestly, the snake is hilarious. It is apparently a big fan of Samuel L. Jackson but not of St. Patrick.
Tilikum Lives Up To His “Killer Whale” Name At SeaWorld
Establishment:SeaWorld – Orlando
For several years now, many have seen the science behind how killer whales and dolphins have been affected negatively when in captivity. This was only increased when Seaworld had them. Tilikum is an orca weighing around 12,000lbs. He is one of the many to play the “Shamo” character and is likely the most notable one to do so. While many orcas are playful, Tilikum is known for his aggression issues, which experts claim is a direct result of spending most of his life in captivity.
Tilikum’s biggest aggression overload happened against trainer Dawn Brancheau. During a live performance, she was attacked by the orca. While trying to give him a belly rub, Dawn leaned in and Tilikum leaped up and grabbed her by the waist, pulling her into the tank and thrashing her around. While Tilikum had attacked trainers in the past, killing some of them, this was a live performance in front of spectators. Dawn was drowned by Tilikum but Sea World still kept him around in spite of all of the attacks. He’d die in January of 2017 from a bacterial infection, however.
Supposed Wildlife Sanctuary Isn’t What It Claims To Be
Establishment:Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation
Location:Butte County, California
The Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation claims to be an animal sanctuary where many animals can live in peace. Especially those who were harmed elsewhere. However, the foundation has violated the American Animal Welfare Act several times. Of course, initial reports about the foundation came from whistleblowers within the wildlife foundation itself in 2014. Former volunteers let the world know how horrible the foundation treats its animals by releasing images and discussing the problems. They were home to some of the worst things that ever happened at zoos, in our book.
They failed to bring in a veterinarian for multiple sick and injured animals, which were left to suffer and die. One volunteer saw Roberta Kirshner, the foundation’s director, personally strike a relatively newborn bear cub. Kirshner also directed people to discipline a clouded leopard by striking it under its chin. On top of this, a lion cub named Samson had broken bones but was taken out to be handled by visitors, and was even hit with a broom. The USDA eventually hit the foundation with a $5,000 fine for violations they uncovered. Yet most, such as PETA, believe the entire foundation should be forced to close completely.
Nyanga The Lion Stops An Early Retirement… Sort Of
Establishment:Parys Zoo Farm
Location:Johannesburg, South Africa
Sometimes, walking away from your job is a good idea. Especially when you decide retiring is the best course of action for your life. This was exactly what Joe Ramonetha decided to do. He retired after working for many years at the Parys Zoo Farm in Johannesburg, South Africa. Yet apparently they were desperate for help, so Joe decided to come out of retirement to help them out. His job was to care for the lions at the zoo for the most part.
Around the lion sector, there is a hallway that is not accessible for any of the lions. However, somehow Nyanga, a lioness, found her way into the hallway. She surprise-attacked Ramonetha before he even had a chance to know what to do. Sadly, he passed away from the injuries he sustained. It was uncertain how the lioness got into the hallway, but most feel the lion’s gate was simply left unattended. This is, naturally, one of the worst things that ever happened at zoos in the South African nation.
While one South African zoo saw a lion attack, the other might surprise you. A giraffe attacked scientist Dr. Katy Williams and her then-three-year-old son in 2018 at the Blyde Wildlife Estate. Williams and her husband were working for the zoo at that time, but no one ever expected anyone to be attacked, especially by a giraffe. Yet that is exactly what happened. Giraffes have rarely targeted humans, but they tend to do so for a couple of reasons. The first is the fear for their own life.
The second most common reason is a mother giraffe feeling her child was in danger. Females of the species will often act irrationally in those situations, which is exactly what happened when the female giraffe attacked Dr. Williams and her son. She was attempting to protect her calf. Both were transferred to a different facility after this incident and sadly, the calf did not survive the move. Both Williams and her son were critically injured but thankfully made a full recovery following the attack.
Another place that PETA is attempting to shut down for understandable reasons, Oswald’s Bear Ranch claims to be a “wildlife rescue service.” However, some rightly object to this. Specifically, due to what has happened to the animal that is part of the ranch’s namesake. They have been home to some of the worst things that ever happened at zoos that we’ve ever seen. First off, for a rescue service, one would assume that they would not shoot bears to death but they have.
While we can understand this if someone’s life is being threatened, this is rarely the reason for it. Around half a dozen bears, as of this writing, have been absolutely slaughtered too. Some bears have been trapped in a collapsed den, suffered drug overdoses, and others died from unknown or simply undisclosed reasons. One state inspector was told by Oswald’s once that one of their “mean bears” needed to be made into jerky. This isn’t even all the ranch has been guilty of either!
Elephant Kills After A Run-In With An Electric Fence
Establishment:Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary
Location: Tuakau, New Zealand
While elephants killing humans is nothing new, even at a zoo, the incident at Franklin Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary was pretty unique. Zoo vet Helen Schofield was working on the arrangements to get Mila, a 7,600-pound elephant, transferred to a new home. Mila might have known Helen, but she sadly had a run-in with the electric fence they had up. It was not harmful to Mila but did frighten her. That caused Mila to grab Schofield with her trunk where she used her power to crush Helen.
Sadly, Helen did not survive and the entire thing was experienced by visitors at the park. After this, it was uncertain what to do with Mila. They finally decided to send her to San Diego Zoo where she would be quarantined from the rest of the elephants, then slowly moved into the herd. The incident with Helen Schofield was a traumatic experience for everyone who saw it happen, but also Mila. This just goes to show just how powerful and wild these animals can be.
When A Zoo Racked Up 50 Violations Of The Animal Welfare Act
Establishment:The Camel Farm
We can thankfully say that this zoo is now permanently closed. They officially closed their doors in 2020 after around 20 years of terrible operation. The United States Department of Agriculture has cited the facility at least seven times for severe problems. Most of this related to terrible veterinary care, as they failed to provide proper care or treatment for many sick or injured animals in their care. One incident occurred with a goat that they allowed to suffer from a severe limp for a full year!
Due to being home to some of the worst things that ever happened at zoos in America, the USDA refused to renew the Camel Farm’s exhibitor’s license. This was after the USDA discovered 50 violations of the Animal Welfare Act between August 2015 to January 2020. Along with this, the zoo is facing a $126,000 penalty but it will be held in abeyance for the next few years. If the zoo violated the AWA again, that penalty would be enforced. The zoo simply chose to close permanently to avoid it.
Bengal Tigers are very beautiful creatures and even endangered. However, when you consider some of the worst things that ever happened at zoos, tiger attacks tend to always pop out. They are wild animals that do not always kill for food, sometimes, they do because they feel threatened, are being territorial, or a multitude of other reasons. One zoo cleaner found out the hard way about what happens when you assume you can enter their territory without keeping them caged.
Nordin Bin Montong cleaned the Singapore Zoo for quite some time but in 2008, he decided to enter the Bengal Tiger exhibit to clean it up. All while the tigers were sitting right there within a short distance from him. Onlookers claim he was just cleaning the exhibit like they were not there, working his way through the tiger moat. The tiger group jumped at Nordin while visitors watched the tigers attack. Zookeepers got in quickly to get Montong out, but he passed from multiple serious injuries.
Drinking and driving might be a terrible idea, but we’d also say that drinking and going to the zoo might also be a bad combination too. This was not considered by Joao Leite Dos Santos, who decided to get hammered and go to the Sorocaba Zoo in his hometown of Sorocaba, Brazil. The drunken fool thought it might be a good idea, somehow, to jump into a monkey pen at the zoo. He jumped right into the monkey moat and attempted to grab the hand of one of the spider monkeys.
Once Dos Santos managed to reach the monkeys, they attacked him. They would proceed to bite and scratch the man, injuring him pretty bad. He did manage to get out of the water and was helped out of the exhibit by other visitors. This was one of the worst things that ever happened at zoos in the Brazilian area, but it could have been much worse. The man completed deserved all that happened to him, in our opinion.
The Taronga Zoo is well-known by anyone who has ever been to Australia, especially Sydney. That is likely why what happened to Lucy Melo became international news. She is an elephant instructor who knows the species incredibly well, so she often knows how to talk with them and even train them quite well. In 2012, Lucy was working with a two-year-old Asian Elephant named Pathi Harn, teaching him how to wash. The young elephant then turned on her.
She recalled the incident later, saying: “I asked for one simple final behavior. He offered me a slightly different behavior than the one I had asked. I asked him again for the correct version. When he did not respond, I sensed a behavioral change in him and realized he was thinking of challenging me. Just as I was almost out, he raised his trunk and pinned me against one of the metal bollards. His trunk on my chest took my breath away, which made it impossible for me to talk and tell him to stop.” Melo was rushed to ER and remained in intensive care for a while, but she eventually made a full recovery.
While a lot of the worst things that ever happened at zoos can often be connected to human error more than animalistic issues, it might be a bit of both when it comes to Gu Gu The Panda. He is never known for being great to visitors, welcoming, and he does not even bother to smile. He is his own rebel Panda, and that is just how he likes it. One would assume if there was ever a panda not to cross, it would be him. Yet three dumb tourists thought otherwise and decided to climb into his pen.
Gu Gu experienced these tourists on three separate occasions too. Therefore, the other two at least knew better. Gu Gu decided to bite each one of them. During the third issue, he had to have his jaws pried open when he refused to let go of a moron who jumped in. The reason this is one of the worst things that ever happened at zoos is two-fold. First, how could security not be better after the first incident? Second, how can we continue to force Gu Gu to deal with the public he dislikes?
While the average tapir can be considered dangerous, it is rare that they ever have a violent encounter with humans. If left alone, most animals will avoid conflict with us, but tapirs tend to be even more unlikely to attack. They are herbivores and have a trunk a lot like an elephant. It is simply not as long. You’d be forgiven if you assumed that the species did not have any teeth, but they do. One zookeeper realized just how bad they can hurt too.
Lisa Morehead went to feed Melody the tapir one 1998 morning. But after she reached into the small opening to place food in the enclosure, Melody decided to latch onto Morehead’s arm. Melody was so powerful that Lisa was pulled into the cage. The tapir managed to severe the arm, and it was deemed too mangled to reattach. While unclear why Melody acted as she did at the time, it was later determined to be motherly instinct. Melody’s two-month-old baby was in the cage with her at the time.
One of the biggest issues with people that might attend a zoo is that some like to taunt the animals. If they were around them without a cage or enclosure there to protect them, they’d never do this. Yet many kids are not aware of this and might not even know they are taunting the creatures. Such an incident happened at the Dallas Zoo in 2004 involving Jabari The Gorilla. He had been taunted by several guests, both adults and kids alike, that day and seemed to have enough of it.
Jabari scaled the 16-foot fence of his enclosure and went on a rampage. He attacked four people, which included one child. Rivers Noah, the child, was only three years old and Jabari placed him in his mouth and shook the child violently while his mother looked on in horror. The local SWAT team was forced to shoot and kill Jabari after 40 minutes of pursuing him, but thankfully all the humans made it out alive. Yet this is still one of the worst things that ever happened at zoos in this region.
Wilson’s Wild Animal Park is now permanently closed and has been since 2019, but before they were forced to do so, they abused numerous animals. The animal park was found to have a monkey dungeon where the primates were kept, often chained up. Yet other animals, such as a group of bears, were put into crowded enclosures. These same enclosures were open to the sun, which heated up the concrete floors they were forced to walk around on. They were not given enough water to help them on these hot days.
Even when they did, it became warm during the day. On top of that, many animals were not given much food. The owner, Keith Wilson, was initially hit with 46 counts of animal cruelty by the USDA. While all of this is among the worst things that ever happened at zoos anywhere, Wilson’s went even further. In October 2020, the park was officially charged with 10 counts of animal trafficking along with a further 10 counts of animal cruelty charges. The Animal Law Unit saved 119 animals from this zoo in 2019.
While some might assume a gorilla holding a knife might not be as big a problem as some might assume, it truly is. We might have evolved from our primate cousin, but we learned how to use tools dating back to the time we weren’t that different from modern-day gorillas. Thus, when a gorilla grabbed a knife at Calgary Zoo in 2009 due to a zookeeper accidentally leaving it behind when he left their enclosure – it was considered a big problem.
A female gorilla named Barika found it and took great interest in the knife, inspecting it. While another gorilla, Zuri, tried to have a look, Barika refused. Barika then began brandishing around the knife and getting pretty dangerous with it, possibly becoming a danger to herself and other nearby gorillas. Once Barika pounded her chest, Zuri backed off in the attempt to see the knife. Satisfied with her inspection of it, Barika placed the knife back down and the zookeeper quickly went in to grab it.
Park Treats Female Giraffe Like A Breeding Machine
Establishment:Animal Adventure Park
Location:Harpursville, New York
Female giraffes have calves quite a lot in the wild, so most zoos are open to them mating even in captivity. However, in captivity, there are often limits on mating. This is done for controlling the number of new animals they might get, as well as the safety of the female. On top of this, giraffes are not weaned from their mother until after 1 year of life. Some mothers stick with their young for their entire lives too.
Yet Animal Adventure Park did not consider such things. April the Giraffe was put into several mating situations where she had a few calves. From there, the zoo separated some calves from April after just a year and a half. Others were taken at just a mere few weeks old. If that’s not enough, the Park live-streamed each birth to make money off of it. Obviously, this is one of the worst things that ever happened at zoos. Sadly, April was put down by the zoo in 2020 due to bad arthritis too.
Located within the Marakele National Park in South Africa, you’ll find the Marataba Safari Lodge. It is considered to be a great place for visitors, but the primary reason it has been so safe for people is due to game trackers. They have a valuable job for these major parks where many animals roam free over hundreds to thousands of acres of land. Sadly, in March 2021, a game tracker named Malibongwe Mfila was killed by two young lions roughly 20 meters from his vehicle.
The young lions came out of nowhere, and clearly, Mfila had no idea they were there. A tracking expert, Mailgongwe was great at following where big predators were at all times. Yet even he could not have eyes in the back of his head. Lions are known for being skilled hunters, making it hard to escape one for most animals. Park Rangers did end up shooting both lions, mostly because the park officials felt they were likely to attack more humans in the future. Killing them removed that issue.
Terry Thompson was a big animal lover. Due to this, he tried to preserve and collect some of the rarest and most exotic animals in the world for his own private wildlife zoo. It was located on his own estate, but it was hard to truly take care of all of them. When Thompson went to prison on federal weapons charges for one year, his wife had to take care of the dozens of animals her husband was forced to leave behind. Terry had dark demons inside his head as well.
Once he returned home from prison, he soon decided to take his own life. However, before he did this, he decided to release several of his animals from their cages or exhibits. That forced the Zanesville police to get involved, who saw the animals as a major public threat. That made them decide to use lethal force as a result. In total, 49 of the animals were killed. This included 17 lions, 6 black bears, 2 gazelles, 3 mountain lions, 2 wolves, 1 baboon, and 18 rare Bengal Tigers.
When we think of some of the worst things that ever happened at zoos, nine times out of ten it has to do with people getting hurt or killed. Yet, some people might believe these people deserve what happened to them, such as Kathryn Warburton. Binky the Polar Bear was a staple at Alaska Zoo for many years until his death in 1995. Yet in 1994, Kathryn decided she would jump two different railings to get closer to the 1,200-pound bear.
She also did not bother to turn her flash off, so the moment Warburton began taking pictures, Binky seemed to heavily dislike everything. This led to Binky sticking his face through the railings remaining where he bit down on Kathryn, breaking her leg. He even kept her shoe for three days before zookeepers were safely able to get it back. This set Binky into stardom all across the United States. It was sadly short-lived due to his death a year later, but it was fun while it lasted.
It is likely we all know the story of Harambe the gorilla by now. The story goes that a 4-year-old somehow managed to get away from his parents long enough that he found himself falling into Harambe’s exhibit. To be fair to the little guy, he is just a kid, and naturally, he is bound to make mistakes. Yet Harambe is a full-grown gorilla who could kill any adult if he wanted to do so, a little boy was no different. Harambe, obviously curious to see a small hairless primate in his exhibit, checked him out.
At first, no one knew what was going to happen. Harambe picked him up and some actually assumed he might be preparing to protect the child. Yet gorillas are much rougher than humans, so his dragging of the child was potentially too violent. This caused zookeepers to shoot and kill the silverback. Due to all of this being caught on camera phones in 2016, it sparked outrage online. It truly was one of the worst things that ever happened at a zoo. Worst of all, it was incredibly preventable!
Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources: