The statement a from the Taronga Zoo about this incident immediately drew my attention.
'Taronga said the eight-year-old animal involved had a long history of participating in encounters with audience members and had never displayed aggressive behaviour before.'
I am sure they are right and that is the case. Apparently the boy unknowingly spooked the animal. Animals remain wild animals and we never truly know them. Taronga is a responsible collection and I am sure that they are extremely upset that this incident occurred. There will be a thorough investigation with a view to minimising the risk in the future.
Sea Lion encounter programmes and sessions take place the world over. There is even the opportunity to swim with Sea Lions in some collections. Over the years I have seen some nasty Sealion bites and all of them given unexpectedly by placid animals. It is worth bearing in mind that close contact with wild animals is an accident waiting to happen.
This 'encounter risk' is elevated vastly by those who allow close contact with any of the large carnivores such as Tigers, Lions and Bears. We even had a wolf attack in a zoo recently. The idea of letting people swim with an expressionless alligator is crazy and yet some collections allow it.
I hope that all encounters in responsible zoos today are without incident because they do offer visitors an incredible and unforgettable experience. An experience which may win them over to support that species for the rest of their lives.
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