Palm Beach Zoo is a popular destination for tourists, but unfortunately it can also be the site of accidents. Zoos can be dangerous, as was clearly illustrated when CNN reported a 38-year-old Florida zoo keeper was killed by a tiger attack at the Palm Beach Zoo.
It is not only zoo keepers who are at risk. Visitors can be hurt if zoos do not have sufficient barriers to prevent access to animals or if security is inadequate.
Tourist destinations like zoos, which open their doors to visitors, must be reasonably safe for guests. This means taking all reasonable precautions to prevent harm. The specifics of what a tourist destination is required to do in order to keep visitors safe can vary depending upon the level of risk, as well as depending upon other factors, such as the potential severity of injuries which could occur. When a popular tourist destination fails to fulfill its legal duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for its visitors, the zoo or other destination can be held accountable for any resulting consequences.
Tourist Destinations Need to Keep Patrons Safe
A number of incidents at zoos have illustrated the risk of accidents that people can face at these popular family destinations. Just recently, a small child was visiting a zoo when he was able to get over a barrier and get into an enclosure with an endangered gorilla.
NBC News reported on the incident, which resulted in the death of an endangered gorilla and inspired widespread public outcry. The incident was caught on video tape. It began when a three-year-old child got around the barrier preventing access to the exhibit and was exposed to a gorilla in the enclosure.
The gorilla appeared to be throwing the child around and dragging the child through water which was in the enclosure. Fearing for the safety of the child, the gorilla was shot and killed and the child was rescued with only relatively minor injuries. The situation, however, could have turned out much worse if action had not been taken to put the animal down immediately. Zookeepers responded quickly and made the difficult decision to kill the endangered gorilla because it appeared to be behaving violently.
NBC says questions were raised about whether the enclosure was secure enough. If a zoo enclosure is not found to be secure enough to protect the public, and a child got into an exhibit and was hurt, it is possible the zoo could be sued. While it could be argued that negligence on the part of the parent or child was a contributing factor in such circumstances, small children are curious and zoos have to plan for this and ensure they cannot gain access to animals.
In any cases where people are hurt while enjoying a tourist destination, it will become important to assess who was at fault and, when appropriate, to hold those accountable who invited visitors to an unsafe destination.