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AnimalsBy Joe Burgett -

The Worst Things That Ever Happened At Zoos
[Image via The Globe and Mail]

A Gorilla Managed To Grab A Knife

  • Establishment: Calgary Zoo
  • Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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.

The Worst Things That Ever Happened At Zoos
[Image via AP Photo/Haika Scheffler – The Canadian Press]
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.

The Worst Things That Ever Happened At Zoos
[Image via News 12 Bronx]

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.

The Worst Things That Ever Happened At Zoos
[Image via Courtesy Animal Adventure Park/People.com]
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.

The Worst Things That Ever Happened At Zoos
[Image via Lonely Planet]

Game Tracker Killed By Lions

  • Establishment: Marataba Safari Lodge
  • Location: Hartbeestfontein, South Africa 

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 Worst Things That Ever Happened At Zoos
[Image via Katie Rose Guest Pryal]
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.

The Worst Things That Ever Happened At Zoos
[Image via The Columbus Dispatch]

The Zanesville Massacre

  • Establishment: Terry Thompson Private Estate
  • Location: Zanesville, Ohio

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.

The Worst Things That Ever Happened At Zoos
[Image via Monkey Media]
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.

The Worst Things That Ever Happened At Zoos
[Image via Flickr]

Polar Bear Finally Had Enough

  • Establishment: Alaska Zoo
  • Location: Anchorage, Alaska

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.

The Worst Things That Ever Happened At Zoos
[Image via Ruek66/Shutterstock.com]
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.

The Worst Things That Ever Happened At Zoos
[Image via Salon.com]

Harambe’s Incredibly Preventable Demise

  • Establishment: Cincinnati Zoo
  • Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

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.

The Worst Things That Ever Happened At Zoos
[Image via National Geographic]
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:

National Geographic


The Guardian

Live Science

National Public Radio (NPR)

The Washington Post

New York Times


The Independent

ABC News

New York Daily News