SARASOTA (WWSB) - In less than 48 hours, there were two animal attacks at wildlife centers. On Monday, a 22-year-old intern was attacked and killed by a lion that escaped a locked enclosure in a North Carolina zoo, and on Tuesday, a two-year-old girl fell into a rhino enclosure at an Orlando area zoo – getting severely injured. These tragedies have sparked concern across the country about safety in wildlife centers.
However, our local attraction says the Suncoast should not be worried.
“Our safety record is impeccable. We’ve never had any kind of incident. We’re very careful. We’re professional, animal people,” Kay Rosaire, the Founder and President of the Big Cat Habitat, told us.
The Big Cat Habitat has welcomed visitors since 1970 and has more than 150 animals, including 50 cats. When they’re out of their enclosures, there are orange signs on the fences letting workers know that the predator is out.
The doors are locked in, and are surrounded by a high double fence on both the inside of the enclosure - and on the outside to protect visitors. In addition, there are always two keepers taking care of the animals at the same time, and checking in on each other. Plus, there’s always extra eyes on the pathways ensuring spectators don’t get too close.
“There’s no way that anyone could get into anything here…Well, except for the petting zoo. You know, people need to be mindful. It’s dangerous anywhere you take your children, but you need to be careful and mindful of what you’re doing. So that’s why that’s my first and only focus here is safety, on every issue,” Rosaire explained.
This week’s tragedy has sparked conversation about whether exhibits like these should continue to stay open - which is one thing many are certainly fighting for.
“We’ve lost Ringling which was a shame, and we’d really hate to lose this. It’s just wonderful to be able to bring the kids here, and see these animals. There’s such variety and there’s so many of them. If you go to a zoo you may see one bear, one lion, one tiger. Here, there’s a variety,” Rod Sorge, who was visiting the exhibit today, said.
Also at The Big Cat Habitat, if any worker makes a safety mistake they get fined.. If they continue not following protocol, they get terminated.