The San Francisco Zoo was hit with a $1,750 fine from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the November 2014 death of 16-month old gorilla Kabibe. Animal rights groups say it's way, way too low.
According to the A.P., USDA documents said the zoo failed to handle the animals "as expeditiously and carefully as possible and in a manner that did not cause trauma."
Last November, Kabibe, a Western lowlands gorilla, a highly endangered species, was crushed to death when a hydraulic door slammed shut in the gorillas' night quarters as the animals were headed in for the evening. There was much controversy over who was at fault; zoo director Tanya Peterson chalked it up to human error, while zookeepers said that the areas were inherently unsafe due to a flawed layout, mechanical problems with the doors, and an understaffed crew.
Either way, members of the animal rights community were appalled by what they consider a paltry fine for such a horrible accident. Dr. Shirley McGreal, director of the International Primate Protection League, an organization that monitors the treatment of primates in zoos and laboratories, said in a statement:
I am horrified that a young gorilla named Kabibe, a member of a highly endangered species living at the San Francisco Zoo, was killed in this preventable incident. In my opinion, this is a ridiculously small penalty for causing the death of a young animal belonging to a highly endangered species.
According to SF Gate, Danny Latham, a zoo spokesman, said the fine was paid with no objections, and that the death of Kabibe has been difficult for employees.
"Everyone here was heartbroken and she is sincerely missed by zoo staff and zoo visitors alike," he said via e-mail.
There are about 100,000 Western lowlands gorillas in Central Africa, and an estimated 750 living in captivity. Before her death, Kabibe totally stole the show at the zoo.
This is far from the SF Zoo's only scandal. In 2007, the zoo's Siberian tiger Tatiana attacked and killed a 17-year-old boy after escaping her enclosure. And in 1988, two zoo employees were seriously injured by an Asian elephant named Tinkerbell when attempting to fix an abscess in her mouth.