‘Cruel and unacceptable’
Hope Zoo curator shuns poor animal care, calls for better practice
Hope Zoo curator Joseph Brown is calling for better treatment of animals following last Friday’s incident at Jamaica Zoo in which a lion severed an attendant’s finger.

Curator at Hope Zoo in Kingston, Joseph Brown, is lashing out against improper treatment of animals that, he said, require specific care in order to avoid mishaps and harm to them and their attendants.

Brown was responding to the spine-chilling incident at Jamaica Zoo Attractions in St Elizabeth last Friday in which zoo attendant Ricardo Jones’s finger was severed by a lion named Santa Cruz.

Jones, who was seemingly making an effort to impress about 15 visitors at the zoo, was interacting with the lion through a wire fence when the large cat grabbed his fingers.

A video of the incident went viral on social media.

“This is definitely not an accepted behaviour and is completely frowned upon. This goes against all modern animal care guidelines. Intentionally provoking any animal for entertainment, and thus causing fear and stress to the animal, is cruel and unacceptable,” Brown told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.

According to Brown, who has been a curator for more than seven years, his organisation follows modern protocols on how to handle wild animals recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Zoological Association of America (ZAA).

“The AZA and ZAA give guidelines for providing the highest standards in animal care, welfare, and safety practices. Protocols are assembled by recognised international experts based on the most modern science, practice, and technology in animal management,” he said.

The AZA’s online care manual for wild animals states that lions in particular can easily cause injury or death to other animals and humans.

“All staff working with lions should receive thorough training from managers and co-workers. It is important that lion keepers understand the natural history as well as the individual background of the cats with which they work,” AZA said.

“A good lion keeper will be safety conscious, attentive to protocols, and be able to make good decisions in an emergency,” AZA added.

On Monday, Jamaica Zoo issued a release stating that Jones is recovering from “what, in the light of the circumstances, can be described as relatively minor injuries”.

“We place on record that our first order of business in the wake of last Friday’s occurrence was to immediately see to the medical care of our team member. Since the incident, which has been widely seen and reported across media, there have been no less than two occasions where staff members have been updated and have received counselling,” Jamaica Zoo said.

The zoo operators also said they will continue to cooperate with the authorities and take all necessary steps to ensure that patrons and stakeholders are safe and enjoy wholesome experiences when they visit the zoo.

On Monday as well, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) said a multi-agency team consisting of its representatives, some from the Veterinary Services Division and Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals visited Jamaica Zoo to investigate the incident.

“During the site visit and assessment, areas of non-compliance with the regulatory instruments were identified and discussed. Issues of animal health and animal welfare were also identified to be addressed,” NEPA said.

The agency said a report on the findings is being prepared to determine the final action to be taken.

Brittny Hutchinson

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