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Buffalo News May 29, 2002


Mass misbehavior leaves zoo a mess


Widespread rowdiness and vandalism at the Buffalo Zoo on Memorial Day, after more than 15,000 people came through the turnstiles free of charge, may spell the end of open admission on major holidays, zoo President Donna M. Fernandes said Tuesday.

Though zoo staff members and private security officers were out in force, Fernandes said, they couldn't stop the mischief, most of which was committed by teenagers. It included:

Garbage and other objects - including a baseball hat - hurled over exhibit barriers at bears, lions and tigers.

Partial destruction of the mesh canopy enclosing Lorikeet Landing, a popular tropical bird exhibit. Until they were stopped, some visitors used the downed mesh as a trampoline.

Abuse of lorikeets and lorries in the exhibit. Visitors pulled down branches on which the birds were perched and then let go, catapulting the birds into the air. People also were caught trying to smuggle birds out of the enclosure.

A number of fights, including a mace-spraying incident involving several girls that started outside the giraffe exhibit and spilled into the parking lot.

A grass fire set in front of the outdoor lion and tiger exhibit.

Parents dangling small children over the railings outside the bear and lion and tiger exhibits, despite clearly posted danger warnings.

The outrages didn't stop there, Fernandes noted, citing people pounding on glass exhibits in the reptile building (the window on the emerald boa constrictor enclosure was hit so hard, a heat lamp used to warm the creature was broken); the deliberate plugging of restroom toilets; unsupervised young children urinating in shrubbery; damage to flower beds and bushes; extensive littering of the grounds with beer and malt liquor containers sneaked through the gatein violation of the zoo's ban on alcoholic beverages; and repeated attempts to feed animals despite many signs saying feeding is prohibited.

While a large majority of the 17,000 people in attendance - including 1,700 who paid their way in - behaved normally, and teens appeared to be the principal culprits, many adults defied requests from staffers or security officers to follow the rules, she added.

Fernandes told the zoo board during its annual meeting that Monday's mass misbehavior, following similar incidents July 4, may doom the tradition of sponsor-subsidized free admission on the big holidays.

Most of the troublemakers apparently used free-admission coupons distributed by a pharmacy chain, which co-sponsored Memorial Day at the zoo with an area health plan.

The zoo will charge $1 a head this July 4. After Labor Day, which is scheduled to be a free day for people holding sponsor coupons, all major holidays are likely to be dollar days, Fernandes said.

"Free days in general bring people who don't always appreciate what they're given. Maybe if they had to pay a small charge, they'd be more thankful for the chance to see the zoo," she said.

There are no plans to eliminate 10 other free days the zoo offers annually, she said. Those dates are not major holidays and are not underwritten by sponsors.

-- (, May 29, 2002


If such behavior can't be stopped... the terrorists have won.

-- Little Nipper (, May 29, 2002.

Pogo time. "We have found the enemy and....."

-- Carlos (, May 30, 2002.

"Parents dangling small children over the railings outside the bear and lion and tiger exhibits"

Freakin' idiots man.....

Sure as hell wouldn't be any more free days if I was in charge. Riff- raff just don't know how to act.

-- Deano (, May 30, 2002.

Nipper get a grip.

-- you are (, May 31, 2002.

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