On August 3rd, we brought you the terrible news of the death of Watoto, a 6 year old male giraffe at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, America. And we have a further update on this story following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), who have reportedly ordered the zoo to make changes following this tragic incident or face the consequences.
As we reported, an apprentice zookeeper accidentally fed two giraffes leaves from a poisonous oleander tree. Watoto, the zoo’s only male giraffe, died. Denver, a 22-year old female, is still recovering but is expected to live.
Up until now, the apprentice is the only one to have resigned, but according to a report, the USDA points the blame for Watoto’s death at zoo officials and has cited the zoo on the following violations:
1) Feeding the giraffes a known toxic plant
2) Causing “physical harm”
3) Failing to closely supervise the apprentice.
Zoo officials had already considered getting rid of the oleander trees and had started by chopping down the trees which the apprentice pulled the leaves from, however the USDA has now made it a mandatory order. Jim Schnormeier, General Curator, told reporters that the rest of the oleander bushes which line the premises along the exterior of the zoo will be slowly killed off by poisoning them with a herbicide.
The USDA has also ordered the zoo to change its training manual because they failed to prove that the apprentice was aware of the zoo’s policy, which clearly states, “Zoo Keepers will not cut browse.” The zoo now admits it may no longer allow apprentices to feed the animals.
If the zoo fails to comply with the changes set out by the USDA, they could launch a more formal investigation to either fine or revoke the zoo’s license.