ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – St. Louis Zoo officials say plans to add an exhibit featuring African painted dogs will go forward, despite the recent tragedy involving the endangered species at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
Steve Bircher, curator of mammals for the zoo, says they hope to open an exhibit that could eventually feature up to a half-dozen painted dogs by early 2014.
He says visitor safety will be a top priority, especially in light of what happened in Pittsburgh Sunday when a 2-year-old boy accidentally fell into the painted dog exhibit and was killed.
“Our exhibit’s going to be contained at all points by a minimum 11-and-a-half foot tall barrier fence,” Bircher tells KMOX News. “It will have an inward-facing overhang at the top.”
There will also be a “viewing station” that pushes out into the painted dog habitat at River’s Edge to allow a closer look at the animals, Bircher explains, but even then observers will be completely protected by glass.
St. Louis belongs to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) which has “very stringent” requirements for maintaining safety for all visitors, staff members and animals.
“So we have very safe barriers, we believe,” says Bircher. “We also have quite a bit of signage and graphics here that ask people to stay away from barriers. Historically, here at the St. Louis Zoo and many other AZA zoos, we have millions of visitors that come through each year and most of our visitors are very respectful of our barriers.”
He says the death of the 2-year-old boy in Pittsburgh was obviously a very tragic accident.
“Our thoughts and condolences go out to the family of the child and to the Pittsburgh Zoo and their community,” according to Bircher.