In a recent episode highlighting a list of the top 10 animal attacks on humans, featured on the Discovery Channel, the countdown showed video accounts of animal attacks at zoos and safaris. It was not difficult to realize that caged animals are still wild, no matter the environment or safe handling involved. From a lion turning on his owner, to a chimpanzee gone wild at a zoo, to a circus elephant on the rampage, wild animals are to be taken very seriously at all times. You never know when an attack will be triggered. In 2009, a woman was severely disfigured when a pet chimpanzee owned by her neighbor went berserk and attacked the woman, leaving her with injuries on her face that broke ground in medical surgery and face transplants. How can a family “pet” take such a turn of personality?
Despite the hours and years that handlers and professionals have when training animals, those very animals have similarities to humans in that they too can simply have a bad day. In the case of the lion attacking its owner, the owner admitted the lion “just wasn’t acting right,” but didn’t take the time to investigate further before parading the lion on a red carpet in front of dozens of spectators. As it turns out the lion was experiencing a severe mouth infection, making his temperament moodier than normal. In the case of the elephant gone wild with riders atop, any number of factors in the crowded arena could have intimidated the animal into feeling insecure, and thus doing whatever it took to escape the situation it was in regardless of who was in its path, or who was on its back.
And, we all hear about dog attacks in our neighborhoods and surrounding towns, mostly because we equate “domesticated” to “gentle and tame.” Not so. We know that dogs can turn in an instant when provoked or taunted, and do what they need to do to protect themselves or to protect their owners. Dog and other animals are wired to protect their turf, and will do whatever they need to do in order to not feel threatened.
If you are at a venue or event where wild animals are being used for show and tell, or other forms of tricks and circus acts, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Always remember that wild animals are just that—wild.
- Don’t be too eager to sit in the front row at a show or circus.
- Look for exits in case you have to escape quickly from a chaotic scene.
- Stay calm.
- Call for assistance as soon as you are able.
A wild animal attack can happen anywhere—at a zoo, at a habitat, at a circus or on a field trip excursion. Take care of yourself and protect the animals at the same time by respecting their territory and knowing your surroundings.