The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Topeka Zoo Will Be Inspected On The Conditions And It's Care For The Animals




Inspectors next month will examine conditions at the Topeka Zoo and its care for animals, including this orangutan.

Outside inspectors will begin their review of the heavily criticized Topeka Zoo on Dec. 2 in a rarely seen process the city hopes will lead the facility back to brighter days.

"We want a top-notch zoo, we want the best program we can have, so the expectations are high that this review will put us on the right track to exceed even AZA expectations," said city spokesman David Bevens.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums will send three inspectors -- two veterinarians and one operations expert -- to take part in the two-day review on Dec. 2 and Dec. 3. Bevens said it will be an "intense, dawn to way past dusk" process.

The Topeka Zoo is only the third in the country in at least the past three years to be reviewed by the AZA outside of the organization's normal accreditation cycle, said AZA spokesman Steve Feldman.The other two occurred in San Francisco and Tampa, Fla., in 2008.

City manager Norton Bonaparte called for the independent review late last month after The Topeka Capital-Journal reported about two U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections faulting the zoo for lax veterinary care and inadequate record keeping in the deaths of multiple animals. Among those findings were that a hippo died after being found in 108-degree water, a leopard died after he was administered a medication later found to be fatal, and a Pallas cat and rabbit died after being infested with maggots.

The same day as Bonaparte's announcement, the city also said the zoo's veterinarian no longer worked there.

The inspectors will look into animal care and welfare; veterinary services, including records and the facilities; management and operations; and safety policies and procedures. Feldman said the normal accreditation process involves one veterinarian and an expert each in animal husbandry and operations. The three coming to Topeka, however, "will be a team heavy in veterinary experience."

The implications of a review are high. Feldman said the AZA's accreditation commission is awaiting the findings.

"What they decide to do with the information they'll do that afterward," he said.

The AZA says its standards are higher than those of the USDA, which already has found the zoo in noncompliance in numerous areas. In addition to the issues related to animal deaths, some in the city have questioned the transparency of zoo leadership. City Councilman John Alcala has said of zoo director Mike Coker, "I can't believe anything that he tells me."

After the hippo, SubMarie, died in October 2006, Coker sent to the public and USDA a news release stating SubMarie was seen disoriented and died later in the day.

"The zoo veterinary staff has conducted a necropsy which revealed no significant findings," the 2006 release said.

But Coker's release didn't contain any information about the 108-degree water temperature or that the necropsy considered high internal body temperature a possible cause of death. The USDA said it only learned about the hot water after alerted to it by a media outlet.

USDA guidelines don't require zoos to report animal deaths, and Coker says he was candid with the public and USDA. If the media or USDA had asked for more information, he said he would have provided it.

The AZA's code of professional ethics states, "A member shall issue no statement to the public which he/she knows (or should know) to be false or misleading."

The hippo incident was the second time in recent years Coker withheld information from the public. In 2002, he apologized for misleading the public about the escape of three storks. That came in the middle of the zoo's attempt to regain AZA accreditation, which it had lost in 2001 due to insufficient staffing and questionable animal care. The zoo was reaccredited in 2003.

Bevens said the city doesn't want a repeat of those years. He said it wants to meet and exceed AZA standards.

"Our hope is that we'll have a much better zoo at the end of the review," he said.

James Carlson can be reached at (785) 295-1186 or


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