A six month long investigation into the Palm Beach Zoo’s practices and safety procedures following the death of lead zookeeper Stacey Konwiser is now complete and the zoo is not facing any violations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA is making recommendations for staff to consider implementing some expensive steps to prevent human-animal contact.
"It's not over the top, however it’s not standard protocol for most zoos," said Ron Magill, Communications Director at Zoo Miami.
Magill says one of OSHA's suggestions to install a camera system to visually track the location and movement of the tigers is not a common safety feature at local zoos, but one that could definitely be beneficial.
"We don’t at this time have a camera system throughout the entire area but that is something we’re certainly looking into and something I think we would optimally like to have," said Magil.
OSHA also recommended Palm Beach Zoo implement a two-keeper team when moving and feeding tigers. A system Zoo Miami agrees with and has in place.
Zoo Miami already practices some of the extra steps OSHA has recommended for the Palm Beach Zoo but as Magill states even though these steps are supposed to be an added layer of security they may not all be practical.
For instance, OSHA has suggested having a system that operates all sliding doors from a central location.
"Having one centralized location to operate all of the doors in all of the areas is not something that we are comfortable doing because we want to have a visual on the cat at the door we are operating," said Magill. Especially if they are electronic doors because sometimes the cat will get caught and the door gets caught and if you can't see the cat, the cat can be severely injured that way."
OSHA also recommends the installation of an electronic door position status detector which would visually show when a door is open or closed.
"There’s a lot of faith put into these electronic systems. They sometimes fail. A light bulb can go out, things can go out so we like to have a visual on each cat. We have to have a visual to make sure all locks are secured not just a light that says it’s locked," added Magill.
A Palm Beach Zoo spokesperson says the zoo has already implemented many of OSHA's recommendations, but does not believe the added steps played a role in the April 15 accident. The zoo has stated Konwiser walked into the tiger enclosure that displayed a sign showing the animal had access to it.
"I don’t think you could ever totally eliminate the possibility of human error even in programming these electronic systems. Human error can go wrong, a fuse can go bad," added Magill. "If a keeper makes a mistake of going in regardless of those signs it's still going to happen."