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Buffalo Zoo leader comments on death of Cincinnati gorilla

Buffalo Zoo President Donna Fernandes says her zoo is a safe place for visitors and for animals. Her comments come in the wake of the shooting death of a Cincinnati gorilla, after a small child went through security fencing and fell into a gorilla exhibit.

Officials in Cincinnati said they had no alternative to shooting the gorilla to rescue the child. Fernandes says the option of using tranquilizer darts is often not the answer because they can take too much time.

"We had an an incident where a gorilla had gotten into the keeper area. It was not in the general public but was in the keeper aisle," Fernandes recalled.  

"Fortunately for us, the keeper was able to secure herself into one of the cages and so was not in the same shared space with Kolga. So, we did dart Kolga and he did take the longest 15 minutes of my life to fall asleep."

She also reflected on a late-night incident which occurred in 1979, prior to her time in Buffalo.

"Two teenagers decided to take a swim in the polar bear pool,"  Fernandes said.

"When the bear heard something swimming, it came out and one boy was able to get out and one was not. The bear was killed."

According to Fernandes, the zoo has arrangements with Buffalo police to shoot an animal if there are no alternatives. She says there are constant drills to ensure safety precautions work.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.