Zoo cited over recent break-ins
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Zoo cited over recent break-ins


By James Carlson

Created June 1, 2010 at 5:20pm

Updated June 1, 2010 at 6:19pm

The Topeka Zoo has been cited again by federal regulators for two recent incidents, one of which involved school children being allowed into the grounds while a bobcat was loose.

The zoo "failed to provide a barrier between the general viewing public and the bobcat," a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated.

On the morning of May 6, zoo workers discovered the perimeter fence had been cut and a bobcat let loose. Without finding the animal after three hours of searching, the zoo allowed into the grounds the public, including a school group that was touring the facility.

Minutes later, the cat was found.

At the time of the incident, city officials described the bobcat as "domesticated, docile and declawed" and said the children were herded out of the zoo after finding the cat again. On Tuesday, city spokesman David Bevens said the decision to reopen the zoo had to be made at some point. After three hours of searching, he said it was just as likely the bobcat was outside the zoo grounds.

The USDA, however, disagreed and cited the zoo.

Again on May 17, the fence was cut in a different location and a golf cart was stolen. The cart was found a few days later.

To that, the USDA wrote, "The facility must construct the perimeter fencing so that it protects the animals in the facility by restricting animals and unauthorized persons from going through it or under it."

City officials noted in their news release on the inspection that both incidents were perpetrated by criminals. The zoo's new director, meanwhile, said his facility is developing improved security measures.

"The zoo and the Topeka Police Department are in the process of evaluating current security measures and developing additional security options," Brendan Wiley said. "We will review our processes and procedures in an effort reduce the chances of similar acts occurring again."

The zoo is working toward maintaining improvements after the Association of Zoos and Aquariums tabled Topeka's accreditation in March. That action came after two critical USDA reports cited the zoo for animal deaths. The majority of zoo management, including zoo director Mike Coker, left or were terminated during the controversy.


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