ZOO WARS ~ “Inside the Famous AZA Columbus Zoo”

Why am I not surprised but instead sickened by the following report?!?  Behind the gates at this AZA zoo will be shocking to some readers!!! I had thought the kind of things exposed, were yesterday’s news; most certainly NOT something I would still find going on today!!! This being Jack Hanna’s Columbus Zoo…They are still holding Marian Thompson’s animals captive…The spotted leopard has been killed by the zoo and NO accident would have occurred under her watchful eye…GIVE THE REST BACK TO THEIR RIGHTFUL OWNER!!! They have most certainly been ‘quarantined’ long enough…Anything that turns up NOW could have easily occurred during their lengthy stay at the Columbus Zoo!!!

Inside The Famous AZA  Columbus Zoo

The following is an insiders report of Jack Hanna’s Columbus Zoo…Undercover by Joe Exotic

The name of our informant has been left out as this person is still inside the zoo getting me all this information. Our question is how many animals must die or be mis-treated before the USDA will do anything against an AZA zoo and a TV star?


The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium has a promotion department.  The animals in this dept can often be seen on late night tv.  They are flown typically on delta airlines.  These animals either sleep in their carriers in the hotel or in bed with their handlers.  This dept can also be reserved for parties and pictures.  Young babies such as tigers are handled by multiple staff, volunteers, and special visitors to the building.  I was one of those visitors and then an employee of the zoo.  I have played with such things as cougar cubs & penguins.  I have bottle fed 5 week old tiger cubs.  I was not part of the promotion department but yet was allowed to handle those babies.  It is very common that the babies become ill with respiratory issues & diarrhea.  This department staff is known as the special group that does no wrong.  One of them being Jack Hanna’s daughter Julie who openly said she hated her job.  These animals very rarely see the outside  pens to run and play.  They know concrete floors and towels better than anything.  Typically, once the babies loose the cute factor, and become unmanageable they are shipped off  to another zoo for breeding.  One baby, a clouded leopard female, Mookie, can still be seen at the zoo with her mate Ty (can’t remember if Ty is a promo baby).  I met Mookie as a cub and then worked around her as a seasonal keeper.  Mookie longed for human contact but once she was moved to the Australasia dept there was no hands on contact allowed with her. She’s a breeder now.  However, she has no outdoor enclosures.  She and Ty live inside the nocturnal building on concrete floors.  The public display is small.  I don’t have dimensions but she isn’t capable of running if she chose.   Both cats are forced to stay on display during the day without the choice to hide from screaming public.

The promotion department animals housing is in a concrete based building away from public view.  The insides cages look like what you see at your local dog pound.  There’s a short (no more than maybe 6 ft) outside run and the typical drop barrier door so they can clean.  There are two outside cages, no tops, chain link fencing with stumps and dead trees to be played on, but they are rarely used.  The cats in the promo building rarely feel sun or rain for that matter on their coats.  Disease runs frequently through the building.  All I can tell you is symptoms I saw because I never got an accurate answer on what it was.

I do know before new construction happen at the zoo for the Mainland Asia area there were cats being housed out of public view because they had FIV.  The cats have since died.  How FIV came into the zoo was never reviled.

The farm animals that are part of the children’s zoo are often over looked b/c they aren’t considered exotics.  There were goats suffering from ring worm that weren’t treated in a timely fashion nor where they put in isolation from the herd.  One occasion I can remember a pony who had mucus pouring out of her nose like a water tap.  It took the vets  2 hours to come down because they were visiting another department. Rainbow, the one eyed, paint pony was in pain, coughing, and nothing was done for her.  Dr Burns, the vet at the time didn’t know what was wrong.  Rainbow was back at pony rides within a week.  It was common for the sheep and angora goats to get severe urine scald because they weren’t groomed in a timely fashion.   It was common for the scald to be so bad there would be blisters and maggots on their rumps.  In the winter the pens are only strip cleaned once or twice a week.  They are spot checked the rest of the time.

In the Australia-asia department there was a bearcat named Fred who self-mutilated his tail.  The only treatment ever done for him was betadine solution and antibiotics when they could get them in him.  There was no attempt to understand why he was doing it or attempts at better enrichment

for him to try to get him to stop.  If it was questioned we were only to say it was allergy related.  Fred was euthanized because of it contrary to the records.

There are lorikeets in the lorikeet feeding station that are kept in their off exhibit because they show psychological issues.  They self-mutilate by pulling out belly feathers and tear at their skin.  Others are beaten up and hurt.  None of these birds are ever isolated or considered for rehoming.

At one time the education building where the summer classrooms are had a closet in the front of the building that was turned into a cage for a yellow napped amazon parrot named Ben.  Her only company was a radio.  She was not suited by zoo standards to do the shows the zoo once performed because she knew how to swear.  I am unsure of what has become of her.

In the pachyderm dept, due to its design cannot remove a dead elephant without having to remove its head.  I have not seen the act thankfully, but know straight from a patchy keeper that chainsaws are used to complete the move of the body.

the song bird aviary in the north America region of the zoo are all wild caught birds.

*seasonal staff is not background checked even though they interact with the public including children. *education animals at one point were housed in a tiny room in the back of the building that is now called the visitor center. These animals had no run cages just cages that were like those you see cats housed at in a local pound.  Animals kept there were bunnies, ferrets, small birds, hedgehogs, small reptiles and amphibians.  They rarely saw the outside.  Typically they were used in the kinderzoo programs. *Before Joel Slaven came in The Wings of Flight Show was the main show.  Exotic birds, raptors, reptiles, & small mammals were kept.  The parrots (macaws, & cockatoos) got very little socialization.  Some showed signs of being psychologically damaged.  One umbrella cockatoo chronically pulled her feathers out.  The story behind her issues were that when they were housed in an old building(pre 1994) a python got out and ate her mate while she watched from her own cage.  Someone hadn’t locked the python in correctly.  There was discussion in this department about possible Avian TB but it was hushed before any more info leaked out. The raptors were(possibly still are) being housed behind the scenes in North America region. It is not a quiet calm place during the day for the birds.  The train passes by them all day.  I saw seasonal staff who were handling these birds hang them upside down just for laughs. This department has lost 2(possibly 3 ) north American kestrels because of free flying.  The birds were never recovered.  1 happened on zoo grounds the other off grounds.  I have heard from other staff since I left another was lost off grounds but I cannot confirm that.

North America Region: A moose escaped (I do believe it may have been in 2000).  It was told to me by another keeper that visitors walked up to it.  I don’t need to tell you how unsafe that is. Song bird aviary- all birds are wild caught Ohio song birds.  the aviary has a netted top. birds can be seen hanging on it screaming (psychological issues).  wild birds can be seen hanging out on the top. (disease transfer issues???)

Pachyderms- Belinda & Belle the African Elephants were moved out when it was decided new construction didn’t have a place for them.  The girls had live together for quite a long time. Belinda did not handle the move well and died with the first year.  Belle resides at Riverside Zoo.  It has been said she died from stress.  Keepers stayed a lengthy time with her and also made a second trip trying to console her and help her adjust to the new environment.  They went from a free contact zoo to a protected contact zoo. Ganesh (not sure about spelling) a male Asian Elephant died unexpectedly while i was there (year i’m foggy on but possibly ’01).  He was beheaded too. Death unknown Coco male Asian Elephant just died in 2010.  Death wasn’t able to be determined is the story.

Mainland Asia(new area)……this is sort of new I don’t much about it A giraffe died of a broken neck in the early 2000’s.   The lions & tigers are housed in this area.  In the 70’s it’s been told to staff that a docent(adult volunteer) was helping a keeper clean the yard, and the keeper let the big cat out before checking that the volunteer was out of the yard.  Volunteer lost their arm.

Africa:  Male gorilla Mac was kept alone for years do to dominance issues within his group.  He was housed is only a small section of the indoor exhibit.  They liked to tell the public that it was because they didn’t want Mac beat up by the silverback and Mac preferred to be alone.  They pride themselves on letting the animals be animals but this shows they don’t let the gorilla groups function as a true gorilla family.   Male Orangutan Willie died in 2010. I was extremely close to Willie and can’t get answers on why he died.  He was a picture of health.  If you can find out Joe I would appreciate it. This dept keeps pretty quiet about what goes on there.  I only was beihnd scenes when I volunteered and I saw an off scene bonobo run where one of the males Jimmy or Toby barely could stand upright in it.

The Farm(childrens zoo dept) (this is out of public sight)……the zoo owns quite a bit of land including an old farm house (that vets or visitors are known to use) and a barn where certain animals from the children’s zoo were kept.  It did not have what I would consider the safety standards to house dangerous animals. It was a typical barn with padlocks on stall doors.  A 4 horned jacob ram (Numbnut) was housed here.  He was extremely aggressive but only because he wanted attention.  A dwarf zebu was kept here that was known to charge people.  The llamas, alpaca, and reindeer were here too.  The reindeer also were carriers of ringworm.  Ringworm ran rapid within this department and staff often times ended up with it. I myself ended up with it twice.  The farm had no protection from wild animals accessing the barn.  Wild animals (racoons, oppossum,skunks were trapped and killed by zoo vets)

Over View of Medical Issues at Zoo FIV (it was a snow leopard that was the last to die somewhere between ’03-’04) unknown disease that was treated with antibiotics in the promotion dept. (tiger cubs) Possible Avian TB Ringworm in the contact goat yard Urine Scald on Sheep that was bad enough maggots were present Distemper has been mentioned within ear shot of me a few times but who it affected I am unsure.

One out right case of abuse that sticks with me deals with a pony named Red.  The head keeper was attempting to break him so he could be used in pony rides.  He had him behind the old children’s zoo barn where public could not see and was running him.  He used a lead to beat him when he didn’t respond correctly.  It bothered many seasonal staff but no one crossed this head keeper.  Red was never able to be used as a pony ride pony so he was shipped out. I already explained Rainbow the one eyed pony in previous email.  While there I saw Rainbow used while she was sick and stressed and because a seasonal employee did not pay attention to a rider when she dismounted the little girl was kicked in the thigh and knocked to the ground.  The zoo took them on a behind the scenes tour to make it better.

jack has his own private exotic collection. one home is in Wyoming or Montana.  his daughter Julie openly talks about the big cats jack brought home to raise in Dublin Ohio.  i am unsure about what is in his collection but i do know he took highland cattle from the children’s zoo.  behind scenes he’s a very rude man and looks down upon staff and visitors.

Press release from the zoo

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium staff and volunteers are mourning the loss of Willie, a male Sumatran orangutan; he was 20 years of age.

Willie battled chronic bronchiectasis for most of his life which is a disease defined by localized, irreversible dilation of part of the bronchial tree. As in humans with the same condition, Willie suffered from periodic infections and pneumonia. He was under veterinary care for many years and was even trained to take an inhaler. Willie underwent a bronchoscopy, lung washing and cultures yesterday after staff had noted his condition had gotten worse. He came out of the procedure and was in recovery but passed away overnight.

“Willie was an impressive animal who will be missed by man,” said Dale Schmidt, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “He will live on in our memories.”

Willie was born at Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, TX on April 6, 1991 and came to the Columbus Zoo on a breeding recommendation on April 21, 2002.

There are now two Sumatran orangutans at the Columbus Zoo, Sally, who was paired to breed with Willie, and Tara. The Zoo is part of a cooperative breeding program for North American zoos and will work with them to identify a new male for the future.

Sumatran orangutans have coarse, long, reddish-brown hair and an arm span of up to 7.5 feet. Both males and females have long beards, however, male orangutans also develop cheek pads, which give appearance of facial disks. They have puffy checks and a hanging throat pouch that contains air sacks that will produce a groaning, bubbling call that can be heard at least a half mile away. The median life expectancy for a male orangutan is 21 years.

Since 1998 the Columbus Zoo has given over $115,000 to orangutan conservation. The Zoo is committed to protecting this endangered species and educating people about them.

Tissue samples from the body of Coco the Asian bull elephant were shipped to labs throughout the country yesterday after the animal’s unexpected death Wednesday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

“You move on to make sure something tragic turns into something positive,” assistant curator Harry Peachey said. “And you want to know what happened.”

Zookeepers found Coco down in the elephant building at 7a.m. Wednesday. When he didn’t stand up, they worked frantically with local firefighters to raise him enough that his body weight would not constrict his internal organs. He weighed about 11,000 pounds.

Neither inflatable bags nor a hoist was enough. The elephant, about 40 years old, could not stand, and died just before 3p.m. from the pressure of lying on his side, Peachey said.

“We know what killed him, but we don’t know why.”

Three of the zoo’s four remaining elephants were allowed into the building with Coco’s body after his death. Peachey said they examined the tip of his trunk with their trunks and touched other parts of his body.

Beco, Coco’s 2-year-old son, put his head behind his father’s head and pushed, as if trying to help him up, Peachey said.

Zoo veterinarians and nearly 30 students from Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine spent nearly seven hours Wednesday night conducting a necropsy, an animal autopsy. Tissue samples were sent to laboratories that study elephants.

Zookeepers kept Coco’s tusks as well as his front feet to study their anatomy. The other remains were buried on zoo property. Results from toxicology tests are expected to take more than a month.

Zoo spokeswoman Patty Peters said hundreds of people have posted condolences and memories on Facebook. Grief counseling will be made available to zoo staff members because animals such as Coco are like family members.

Peachey helped care for Coco for most of the elephant’s 37 years at the zoo. Coco was born in the wild, probably in Thailand, and was about 3 when the zoo obtained him from an animal dealer in 1974, Peachey said.

As a young elephant, Coco made up a game of “fetch” with his keepers. He’d pick up an empty beer keg, push it into the elephant pool and let it fill with water. Then he’d pull it out and let the water drain out, expecting the keepers to pick it up and toss it back into the pool.

“He’d do that five or six times,” Peachey said. “It was him teaching us.”

Dispatch archives show that Coco was close to death from an intestinal infection in 1987.

He wouldn’t take the prescribed antibiotic, despite attempts by keepers to hide the pills in his favorite treats. Finally, the keepers hid the pills in sticks of gum, and Coco swallowed them and eventually got better.

Other elephants have died at the zoo.

• In 2005, 7-year-old Ganesh was found dead in his stall. A necropsy determined the Asian male elephant died of the herpes virus, which produces sudden hemorrhaging.

• Asian elephant Bomba was euthanized in 1999 because of foot abscesses that had destroyed bones and tendons. She was in her late 50s.

• Bud, an African bull elephant, died of an intestinal obstruction in 1991 at age 20 after living at the zoo for 19 years. Parts of his body were taken to OSU’s veterinary school for study. His skull was kept at the zoo for educational purposes.

• In 1974, Tanzy, a female Asian elephant, died of acute bacterial pneumonia and an intestinal inflammation, a necropsy found. Tanzy had been at the zoo for 33 years and was 38 to 40 years old.

Lulu the gorilla has died at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

The zoo announced the death this morning. The 46-year-old female had a seizure Saturday and stopped breathing yesterday while she was being sedated in preparation for an MRI.

Lulu had lived at the Columbus Zoo since 1984 and was a favorite of zookeepers and the public, said zoo President Dale Schmidt. He said visitors easily recognized her by her pink tongue, which she was perpetually sticking out.

The zoo is performing a necropsy and has asked those who remember Lulu to post thoughts about her on the zoo’s Facebook page.

Spokeswoman Patty Peters said Lulu had not been ill until the seizures started, and continued, over the weekend.

The western lowland gorilla was born in Africa and taken to Central Park Zoo in 1966. In 1972, she gave birth to Pattycake, the first gorilla born in New York City.

In Columbus, she had three girls between 1987 and 1991. One was Binti Jua, who became famous in 1996 at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago when she rescued a toddler who had fallen into the gorilla habitat.

After her childbearing years were over, Lulu became a surrogate mother to gorillas whose mothers could not care for them.


A male giraffe known as Tsavo died Saturday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the zoo announced Tuesday. The 14-year-old animal was euthanized Saturday after zookeepers found him lying in his cage and tried for eight hours to get him to stand. Zoo officials said he had apparently slipped or collapsed sometime during the night in a position that made it impossible for him to regain his footing. An assistant zoo director said zookeepers may never determine a definite cause in the giraffe’s death.Tsavo was born on June 8, 1990, at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium. He came to Columbus in 1991. He sired four calves, all born at the Columbus Zoo. Tsavo is one of four animals who died at the zoo in less than two weeks.He and the other three, another giraffe and two zebras, were housed in an area that is undergoing extensive renovation as part of a $125 million, 10-year expansion of the zoo.The other giraffe, Kenya, died April 13 of heart failure while under sedation. Officials said the renovations likely were not a factor in the death Kenya, who had a chronic illness and died of heart failure in its cage. A day earlier, two zebras, Fauna and Flora, died minutes after being moved to a temporary enclosure outside Columbus. They got spooked and slammed into fence posts, breaking their necks.Winstel said the zoo is looking closely at all the circumstances surrounding each death.On the same day that Tsavo died, a litter of Mexican wolf pups was born at the zoo. It was the fifth successful litter of Mexican wolves born at the Columbus Zoo.On Friday, a baby Siamang gibbon was born. It was the first Siamang birth to happen at the zoo, according to zoo officials.

to the 5 remaining animals that were seized in Zainesville, Ohio from the Thompson farm in Oct. of 2011.  I know from personal & professional experience that yes big cats can be a threat to humans if not handled correctly.  I am a former seasonal zookeeper from Columbus Zoo & Aquarium.  In the wild the number of wildlife species that are dwindling is overwhelming and disheartening.  I know you would agree.  The AZA facilities are a needed thing, but with the failing economy they aren’t reaching near as many people as they have in the past.  This is where the private owners, sanctuaries, educational facilities, and the good small unaccredited zoos come into play.  These no name people and places make it the priority to help educate the public on what we as the human race need to do to make things right again on this planet.  Marian Thompson wants to continue that work, and she has a lot of help from people with professional exotic backgrounds to help her do just that; as Terry Thompson was trying to do.  I don’t know how familiar you are with aza zoo protocol, but the five remaining animals are of no use to them.  If Marian had called herself asking for help with her exotics they would have turned her away because these animals don’t meet their protocol for breeding.  Anthony, Cleopatra, Kong, Kian, and Winnie were all throw away animals either bought at those animal auctions where someone wanted to make a buck or taken in by the Thompson’s because someone could not or would not do the job and care for them.  The AZA zoos would have never given these animals a second glance.

The death of Anton was extremely heart breaking, but it showed us all a few things.  One, no human or facility can provide perfect care. Two, the staff actions show just how much time and importance these animals have to them.  If Anton and the others had really meant something to that zoo that horrible mistake would have never happened.  I’m also concerned for the remaining five’s wellbeing.  I know the layout of the zoo well, so I know where quarantine is for the animals.  This is in no way an acceptable place for Anthony, Cleopatra, Kong, Kian, and Winnie to be living.  The quarantine cages are small, cold, harsh, and have little options for enrichment.  I’m asking you, Dr. Forshey to go see them for yourself.  I bet you would agree with me.  I also need to address the testing these animals were suppose to have done that from my understanding isn’t completed.  If it hasn’t been completed, what is taking so long?  Is this the only way the government can keep the animals from Marian Thompson?  If there is concern that the Thompson Farm needs updated facilities and better security why aren’t you saying so?  There are thousands of us across the nation that will gladly help her with that job.  I’m asking for the return of the 5 remaining Zainesville Tragedy Animals back to their home with the one woman who gave them a chance at life to continue teaching future generations.

I thank you for your time, and look forward to future conversation with you Dr Forshey.  I will be in touch.

Stay tuned…You KNOW there’s going to be more!!! Follow this blog  Best  -B


~ by topcatsroar on February 8, 2012.

One Response to “ZOO WARS ~ “Inside the Famous AZA Columbus Zoo””

  1. The Columbus Zoo needs thorough investigating. Since Terry Thompson’s death. “Jungle Jack” has traded on his late night show fame to let him squeak by without being questioned. There needs to be a complete look into all of the practices. Hopefully more who work there, paid staff & volunteers, will keep diaries, take photos, & for the animals’ well being, step forwards. Just because this is a zoo with a famous name attached should not ever mean a blind eye will be there to overlook every action of cruelty, improper care, or recklessness with the lives of these animals.

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