Last week, The Zoo in Gulf Breeze announced that it may have to close if it doesn’t raise $3 million by the end of the year. The zoo is struggling to recover from hurricane damage and poor attendance. Today’s news probably won’t help their fundraising efforts.
“Sammy,” a 10-year-old giraffe, was found dead at the zoo after suffering a neck injury. Zoo officials guess that the animal was startled and ran into something. The incident is sad, but not surprising. The giraffe enclosure is next to busy Highway 98; a noisy truck could easily have startled the animal.
It’s been a horrible few months for The Zoo. Earlier this month, a young hippo died after being injured by one of her parents. Last December, four kangaroos at the zoo died from a bacterial infection. In November, visitors were rushed out of the zoo after two cougars escaped from their enclosure. The day before that incident, a zoo employee was clawed by a leopard.
Some of the problems at The Zoo may have been bad luck. 20 miles down the road, at the Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach, the problem is negligence.
On June 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its report on the death of two dolphins. The USDA determined that one of the dolphins, “Daphne,” died after an employee gave the animal a drug for two months instead of the two weeks that had been prescribed.
The USDA considered the drug overdose a “serious” violation of the Animal Welfare Act, but it was one of many violations identified at the marine park. USDA inspectors also found that the sea lion enclosure was poorly maintained and lacked shade for the sea lions to escape from the Florida sun, and another dolphin had been kept by herself for weeks (dolphins are extremely social mammals who suffer greatly from isolation). We’ve written about the Gulfarium before. Click here to read about the unreported deaths of dolphins and sea lions at the aquarium.
Animals in zoos and aquariums are denied their basic right to live as nature intended. The dolphins held captive at the Gulfarium belong in the ocean. The giraffe who died at The Zoo deserved, at the very least, an enclosure large enough in which to escape from threats.