Zoo Staff Fear for Their Safety After Panda Nearly Escapes Enclosure

Colin Fredericson
By Colin Fredericson
August 16, 2017World News
Zoo Staff Fear for Their Safety After Panda Nearly Escapes Enclosure
Yang Guang looks through the fence as the breeding season approaches, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The staff at the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland claim a near panda attack that could have turned into a panda escape highlights the many dangers that staff face.

The panda was somehow, let back into its enclosure while a staff member was still cleaning it. The panda could have left through the door the cleaner entered through and that was still open, or have attacked to defend its space. Pandas are territorial animals known to defend their enclosures.

A leaked email to zoo management insinuates the zoo tried to cover up the panda incident and many other conditions at the zoo that have agitated staff, as The Telegraph reports.

Zoo staff claim there was CCTV video showing the worker scurrying out. A leaked image does seem to show this scenario. The image shows a woman heading to the door with a panda following after her. Cleaning supplies are still scattered and the floor still appears to be wet, as of the woman left with no time to collect her supplies while being pursued by the panda.

The staff member in question claimed she was sick, left the zoo, and never returned, according to The Telegraph.

Current staff blame the issue on staff shortages. “Some of the keepers are concerned about the welfare of the animals as sometimes they are so short-staffed and have little time it stops them giving proper care to the animals,” writes zoo staff in the leaked email.

The Edinburgh Zoo is the second most popular visitor attraction in the Scottish capital. Visitor numbers have dropped recently. The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions reported a 5.7 percent drop between 2014 and 2015, and the U.K.’s Association of Leading Visitor Attractions reported a 9.6 percent drop among its members the year following.

The zoo’s response, as reported by the BBC,  contains an admission of the panda incident. “Staff reported a near miss within the panda enclosure last year. This was fully investigated and Edinburgh Council were kept informed throughout the process. No staff or animals were harmed during the incident.” Other claims made in the staff email were not embraced by the management. They described many of the claims as “inaccuracies,” according to the Telegraph article.

The staff added: “There is a dreadful atmosphere around the zoo with staff morale the lowest we have ever known it.”

The staff added: “There is a dreadful atmosphere around the zoo with staff morale the lowest we have ever known it.”

The zoo staff decried the entire operation in the email, as obtained by The Guardian: “We are letting you know that we have NO CONFIDENCE in the chief executive NO CONFIDENCE in the director of human resources NO CONFIDENCE in the head of business ops NO CONFIDENCE in the head of discovery & learning.”

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland further replied. “While we never comment on speculation or accusatory comments from anonymous sources, should any staff grievances be raised, they are handled by our well-established employee consultative board. We can confirm this has not occurred in this instance.”

There have been known panda attacks at zoos. Three visitors to the Beijing Zoo were mauled by pandas between 2006 and 2009. In 2011, a San Diego Zoo worker was bitten by a panda, as The Guardian reports.

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