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Calgary Zoo cleared in gorilla-knife incident

CALGARY – The national body regulating zoos has cleared the Calgary Zoo in the case of a gorilla picking up a knife that was left in the exhibit by a zookeeper.

Officials with the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums had asked the zoo to prepare a report on the June incident.

The report–detailing how it happened and what steps were taken to ensure it won’t happen again–was adequate, said national director Bill Peters.

"It was unfortunate that it occurred," he said, "but it was not something that would require us to review the status of their accreditation.

"They’ve reviewed the way they handle that sort of thing with their staff and we are quite satisfied that they are taking appropriate measures."

Onlookers at the Calgary Zoo were shocked on June 16 when Barika, a western lowland gorilla, picked up a knife and appeared to be pointing it at another primate in the enclosure.

Eventually, the gorillas lost interest in the knife, leaving it on a chair for keepers to remove. No animals were harmed.

Photos of the gorilla holding up the knife, which were first published in the Herald, spread quickly over the Internet and to news outlets and talk shows around the world.

Joe and Heike Scheffler, who took the photo, could not be reached for comment Monday.

At the time of the incident, however, they called on the zoo to change its policies on bringing sharp objects into animal enclosures.

Zoo spokeswoman Laurie Herron said Monday the keepers need to take tools into the exhibits to do the necessary work, but they have all been reminded to count their tools and equipment before leaving the exhibit.

"That was already in our protocol, but it never hurts to remind people," she said.

"We’ve reviewed all of those procedures with our staff, and we always do our best to try and make sure everything is as safe as possible for all of the animals."

Peters said the incident report will stay on the zoo’s file until its next accreditation review, which takes place every five years.

The international Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which also accredits the Calgary Zoo, said it, too, has reviewed the incident and won’t investigate any further.

The Calgary Zoo’s next review is set for 2013. The review would include any incidents since the last evaluation–including the death of a wild goat that became entangled in a play toy and the admission that the death of 41 cow nose rays was the result of human error.

cderworiz@theherald.canwest.com

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