Other Pittsburgh Zoo incidents
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The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium has experienced a number of accidents and mishaps over the years, but only one other accident that resulted in a human fatality. Below are some of the incidents.
July 1987 to January 1988: Alphie, a footloose Japanese macaque monkey, escapes from the Pittsburgh Zoo in 1987 and remains at large for six months, drawing national attention before he is finally captured near Bridgeport, Ohio, 60 miles away from the zoo.
Shortly after he is recaptured, Zoo officials acknowledge Alphie tested positive for Simian B Virus, a blood-borne virus that can be transmitted to humans through bites or scratches. Despite the knowledge, the monkey continues to be displayed in the children's section for two years. In 1991, six months after she arrives at the zoo, president and CEO Barbara Baker removes Alphie and several other macaques from display. They later are sent to a wildlife park in Florida.
July 1989: Animal keeper Henry Kacprzyk suffers a broken leg, cuts and bruises when Tribby, an African elephant, kicks him when he was about to give the elephant medicine.
March 1990: Chuckles, an Amazon River dolphin, bites the finger of a zoo volunteer who was giving him a sponge bath. It was not an isolated incident. Chuckles bit trainers, a zoo volunteer and at least three AquaZoo visitors during his 32 years at the zoo. In one case in 1996, Chuckles bites a woman who ignored zoo rules and pulled back a screen to pet him. Her companion strikes the dolphin with an umbrella until he releases the woman's bleeding hand. Chuckles died in February 2002 at the age of 34.
September 1995: An artificial coral reef is installed in a shark tank. The reef -- made of fiberglass, concrete and plastic -- causes a chemical change in the tank's seawater, and two black-tipped reef sharks die because of a change in the pH level of the seawater.
April 2000: Two black-tip sharks die after a salt mixture in their tank is contaminated with cyanide. A vendor had substituted the wrong chemical.
June 12, 2000: About 20 marine animals die, including 12 stingrays. The stingrays die after a worker slipped and damaged a sprinkler system, which leaked water into the stingrays' saltwater tank. Five seahorses die due to a malfunction in their tank, and several jellyfish die.
July 11, 2000: Jim Prappas, curator of aquatic life, is fired. Mr. Prappas claims some fish were rushed into their habitats prematurely to meet the deadline for the June 10 opening of the zoo's new aquarium. Ms. Baker denies the allegation.
July 12, 2000: The day after Mr. Prappas is fired, a puffer fish and panther grouper die because of high levels of ozone in their tank. The fish die when the ozone machine, which disinfects and sterilizes tank water, was turned on for the first time.
Feb. 4, 2001: A 150-pound gorilla escaped her enclosure by crossing a moat and scaling a 14-foot wall. About 250 zoo patrons are kept inside buildings for about 45 minutes while the gorilla scavenges food from trash cans in an outdoor concession area near the gorilla exhibit. Keepers eventually lure the animal into a women's restroom, where it was injected with a tranquilizer.
Nov. 18, 2002: Elephant handler Mike Gatti, 46, of Butler is killed when a mother elephant butts her head against his chest after he tells her to move. The elephant continues pushing on Mr. Gatti with her head after he falls to the ground. It is the first human fatality in the zoo's history.
February 2006: Zoo officials say human error is to blame for the ozone-poisoning deaths of all 10 black-tip reef sharks at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. The deaths occur during a routine, weekly backwash procedure that puts purified water into the 90,000-gallon open-ocean aquarium.
First Published November 6, 2012 12:00 am