San Antonio Zoo’s routine habitat checks help keep animals, public safe

SAN ANTONIO – It’s a zoo’s worst fear: one of their endangered animals escaping. But that’s exactly what happened to one of the clouded leopards at the Dallas Zoo just last week.

Thankfully, the leopard named Nova was found within a few hours on zoo property, near her enclosure. However, authorities say someone knowingly damaged her habitat.

”We do know that the fence that it escaped from was intentionally cut,” Sgt. Warren Mitchell with the Dallas Police Department said last Friday.

The next day, another intentionally cut hole was found on one of their monkey habitats. No monkeys escaped, or were hurt in the incident.

Rachel Malstaff, director of Mammals with the San Antonio Zoo, said in most cases messing with animal habitats does more harm to the animals, than to the public.

“They know that habitat, you know, they are provided for in that habitat,” Malstaff said. “They get their food brought to them every day. They get mental stimulation. They have, you know, that is their home.”

She said that an animal escaping its enclosure can also be extremely stressful for it.

”If they’re a herd animal or if they’re in a primate, in a troop, you know, that’s their family member,” she said. “So for them to be outside of that group like that can cause a lot of stress to them and again, not necessarily be able to find the food they need to survive.”

The San Antonio Zoo has 15,000 animals, including fish and birds and 812 species. Ninety-five percent of them are endangered or critically endangered. That’s why the San Antonio Zoo believes it’s so important to keep them all safe.

”There may be very few of that species in the wild, actually,” Malstaff said. “So we want to be able to preserve that species. We want that species to be around for 100 years plus to come for years and years to come.”

Educating the public about those endangered species and preserving them through procreation.

For example Frida, a three-year-old jaguar was brought to the zoo last year in hopes that her and B’alam, the male jaguar, will have a baby in the future. Malstaff said to keep these protected animals safe, their staff does daily exhibit integrity checks.

”They’re checking in the wire mesh, they’re checking the barriers, and they’re going through and making sure everything is safe for our guests, for themselves, and also for the animals, too,” she said.

The zoo also brings in outside contractors to do more thorough checks once a year and are always prepared for an emergency.

”We do regular drills throughout the year to plan for any emergency situations,” Malstaff said. “So that way staff are prepared even, you know, for animal escapes or for, you know, weather situations or the whole list of drills that we prepare for.”

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