USDA investigates, zoo staff looks for improvements after giraffe escape

Local News

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo staff worked with the USDA Tuesday after a baby giraffe got away from its exhibit Monday. 

Thabisa, the reticulated giraffe broke through cables in a chute connecting a barn to the giraffe exhibit. She stayed on zoo grounds and away from the public during the incident.

Zookeepers worked for more than two hours to keep the animal calm and move it back to its exhibit. It could be seen running around a building just off the parking lot as staff held long tarps.

Following protocol, the zoo contacted the USDA who investigates animal escapes. The director of animal programing at the zoo told NewsChannel 15 and inspection Tuesday morning did not find any issues with the exhibit. A representative from the USDA confirmed an investigation was underway.

The exhibit has been open about 40 years and has been home to dozens of giraffes, including 18 babies. This incident was the first escape in that time. 

The zoo issued the following statement:

As many of you may know, our youngest giraffe Thabisa decided to have a little adventure today! Thanks for all of your concern for her safety, but after realizing our nonpublic parking lot outside the giraffe barn wasn’t that exciting, she decided to go back into the barn all on her own. She remained on zoo property for the duration of her adventure, and is now resting safely behind the scenes. In all 40+ years of having giraffes here at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, nothing like this has ever happened before, but we will re-evaluate our giraffe exhibit and take extra precautions to ensure the continued safety of our animals and staff.

The last public animal escape at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo appeared to be in 2004, when five wildebeests escaped from the then-African Veldt as workers were moving them to a barn for the winter. Those animals, though, escaped to the streets of Fort Wayne as zoo employees gave chase.

The wildebeests were eventually tranquilized and returned to the zoo. Two were injured during the affair and had to be euthanized, however.

The zoo faced fines from the USDA in the 2004 incident. There hasn’t been any word on possible fines for Monday’s escape. Although, in 2004, the animals got away from zoo property, into the surrounding neighborhood. The giraffe never made it that far. 

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