MN Zoo Reopens the Meerkats Exhibit

Most people have probably heard about the recent incident at the MN Zoo. A 9-year-old child climbs up onto a 3-ft rock barrier and reaches over the top of a 4-foot glass wall at the Meerkats Exhibit. She is bitten by one of the meerkats. The parents of this child refuse to make her get a series of rabies shots. Because of this decision and because the Zoo doesn’t know which meerkat bit the child, they have to put all 5 animals to death and test them for rabies to make sure the child hasn’t been exposed. This was such a sad and controversial story.

On the one hand, my first inclination is to blame these parents for not watching their kid closely enough. If it were me, I’d like to think I wouldn’t make that same mistake, but who knows? Kids can be very elusive! I just know that when we’re in a public place, I keep a hawk’s eye on my step-daughter (even though she’s now 13 and it drives her crazy).

Again, if it were me, I’d make my child get the shots. Maybe she’d think twice before acting out in such a way (if the bite wasn’t enough reason). Plus, getting the shots would have meant the meerkats’ lives would have been spared. They’re wild animals, they don’t know any better and I think it sucks that they had to die over this.

On the other hand, the MN Zoo did the right thing. They educated the parents on their options and complied with the government’s statute around this issue. I give them plenty o’ props for that and I think it shows how responsible and caring they are as an organization.

The good news at the Zoo is that the exhibit has reopened. They have four new meerkats in the exhibit and I hope Minneapolitans will go show their support. I will be heading there soon!

8 Comments so far

  1. Greg (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 8:44 am

    This is GREAT news! I love meerkats – anyone else watch Meerkat Manor on Animal Planet? And you are absolutely correct that the parents are the ones at fault. I have a season membership to the MN Zoo and go quite often, and there’s only so much the zoo can do to protect visitors from wild animals — it is a zoo after all. And that article says the USDA again deemed the exhibit safe post-incident. Idiot parents should just keep an eye on their kid. I hope they’re banned from the zoo for life.

  2. Erica (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 9:02 am

    Sounds like the zoo did everything they were supposed to. Pisses me off that the parents wouldn’t take any responsibility. I wonder why they wouldn’t want her to get the shots. I mean, wouldn’t they want to KNOW if she might have rabies? Pfffft.

  3. Erin (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 2:18 pm

    Well in answer to Erica:

    The parents wouldn’t have known if she got rabies or not without dissecting the brain of the meerkat that bit her. And since they couldn’t tell which one it is. . . .

    I think it’s sad however. The meerkats did get rabies vaccinations previously but it is untested in “exotic animals”. And the parents probably didn’t want the daughter to get the shots because they thought they were like the shots in good old days where you got the shots in the stomach. These days though the shots have been updated and you can get them in the arm like any other shot.

    I hope the child and her parents are on the ban list at the zoo.

  4. Heather K (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 2:55 pm

    I’m only speculating here but I’m willing to bet the officials at the Zoo gave the parents LOTS of information about the shots. If anything, they would’ve needed to do that to make a case to the parents on why they should consider the shots in an effort to save the lives of the meerkats.

  5. Dave Dash (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 7:44 pm

    I wish people were more educated on rabies shots. I had the entire 5 series of shots. They were NOTHING. Nothing at all compared to losing an animal exhibit for everyone to enjoy.

    And I for one am glad that I have the shots. Because now when/if Katie and I have kids and they get bit for taunting a dragon or whatever… instead of killing the creature, we can be like, okay time to take the kid in for some painless shots.

  6. Tipper (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 11:47 pm

    I hope the zoo sends that kid’s parents a bill for five new meerkats. That’s just plain ridiculous.

  7. Erica (unregistered) on August 11th, 2006 @ 11:27 am

    Regardless of what the zoo would or would not have to do with the meerkats, it just seems irresponsible of the parents to not get their kid tested for rabies.

  8. Heather K (unregistered) on August 12th, 2006 @ 6:05 am

    Rabies testing in humans involves a spinal tap plus collecting other bodily fluids and minor skin samples from the nape of the neck. If the parents were adverse to a few shots in the arm, they certainly weren’t going for these testing procedures. The shots would’ve inoculated the kid against the disease, so to me, testing seems like kind of a moot point.

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