Inspection records show enclosure issues at Sedgwick County Zoo

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – After an orangutan escaped from her enclosure at the Sedgwick County Zoo on Tuesday, KSN looked into inspection records at the facility.

“We are very confident in our procedures and our processes and our habitats for our animals,” said Sedgwick County Zoo Deputy Director Ryan Gulker.

Gulker said he and his staff are taking a close look at Tuesday morning’s orangutan escape and how they can prevent it from happening again.

“We are going to look at the exhibit inside outside up and down with a microscope,” Gulker said.

Gulker said the 11-year-old orangutan named Tao made her way onto a public pathway at the zoo around 10 a.m. on Tuesday after she escaped through a volleyball-sized hole in her mesh enclosure.

“It’s a woven mesh, so once one part becomes loose, it can become unwoven,” he said.

He said zoo keepers check each exhibit daily. He said workers physically touch the enclosures and walk through them to make sure they are safe and secure.

KSN looked into past inspections that were done at the zoo. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the zoo has had several issues with its enclosures and exhibits in the past.

Records show in 2014, there were “…rusted metal surfaces along the base of both indoor exhibit enclosures housing chimpanzees and orangutans.” The inspection report also said at least one place in the chimpanzee enclosure the rusted surface had appeared to result in a jagged metal edge.

Records show in 2015, there was a “…hole in a metal support bar at the base of a shelter structure in the goat/sheep night pasture.” The inspection report also said there was a metal panel on a zebra stall door that was pulling away from the underlying wood.

In the case of the escaped orangutan, zoo officials said they are investigating and will address the issue as they see fit.

“It’s going to take a while before we decide how to fix it. If there’s more than one spot that we find, we will have to repair those before they can go back out,” Gulker said. “I wouldn’t have any qualms at all telling people it’s safe to come to the zoo.”

Inspection records from March 2016, show the USDA did not find any problems at the zoo.