Beth Rich, deputy director of animal management and health at the Milwaukee County Zoo, doesn't want to use the term 'impossible,' but she said it would be very difficult for someone to enter an ape exhibit at the Milwaukee County Zoo.
Zoos across the country are likely on high alert after a 3-year-old boy entered the Cincinnati Zoo's gorilla enclosure May 28. The 450-pound gorilla dragged the toddler through a moat before Cincinnati Zoo officials shot and killed the endangered animal. The boy was not injured.
The chance that a similar incident could happen locally is very unlikely, as every indoor ape exhibit is completely enclosed with either glass or mesh, Rich said.
'It literally couldn't happen,' she said.
Rich added that when apes are in the outdoor exhibits there are always volunteers nearby giving out information about the animals, but 'also keeping an eye on things,' ensuring that no one enters the exhibits, said Rich.
Rich declined to comment on whether she thought the way the Cincinnati Zoo handled the incident was appropriate, but said: 'Anytime we have a tragedy that happens at any zoo in the United States, we think about it, we grieve and we mourn.'
The Milwaukee County Zoo does have drills regularly in place to prepare zoo staff for a number of possibilities including animal escapes, severe weather or human medical emergencies, Rich said.
If an animal did escape, the zoo's subsequent actions would depend on where it happened, which animal it was and whether there was any immediate danger to the public, Rich said.
'Human life is first and foremost,' she said.
Rich, who has been working at the zoo for about 18 months, said she wasn't aware of a time when a visitor entered what's considered a dangerous animal exhibit.