A video posted on YouTube has stirred up controversy at the Toronto Zoo.
The video, which was uploaded on Saturday, April 16, shows a woman jumping a protective barrier in front of a pen holding Hari, an endangered Sumatran tiger, to retrieve a dropped hat.
The tiger – which is behind a second fence – can be seen pacing back and forth aggressively beside the woman, who spends a few seconds collecting the hat before climbing back over the fence.
“It’s surprising to see (someone jumping the barrier), especially when there are signs posted all over saying ‘danger – do not cross any barriers,’” said Toronto Zoo spokesperson Jennifer Tracey. “We do see people sometimes inadvertently dropping things in an area that’s off-limits. If they do that, they should notify zoo staff, who have special equipment to get the items back.”
Tracey noted that the woman was in no imminent danger given that a second fence separated her from Hari, but added that she could have hurt herself climbing down once she had hopped the fence and noted that Hari was obviously agitated at her arrival.
“He knows the zoo staff in that area and he knows they would never have approached (the enclosure) by jumping over the railing,” she said. “There are reasons we have signs telling visitors not to cross barriers – it’s for their protection and for the protection of the animals.”
Following the incident, zoo patrons can be heard shouting angrily on the video, with one man repeatedly calling the woman "a moron."
“You’re a bad example to everyone else’s kids but your own, and that’s OK?” a zoo patron can be heard saying.
Tracey said the reactions in the video show that most people are very aware and conscientious of the posted warnings.
“Not just as a zoo staffer but also as a parent, I wouldn’t want my kids to see something like that,” she said.
She added that zoo staff are investigating the incident and are hoping to track down the woman caught hopping the barrier. If she is found, she could be charged with trespassing, face a ban from the zoo or face other consequences.
In the meantime, Tracey said the video should serve as a teachable moment.
“It’s a good time to remind people that if they do lose something (by dropping it into an off-limits area) they should notify zoo staff who can retrieve it,” she said. “And as a visitor, if you see something that isn’t right, we ask that you notify zoo staff immediately so they can address it.”
The video, which had collected more than 50,000 views by early Sunday morning, appears to have been taken and posted by a bystander at the zoo.