Tragedy at the Cleveland Zoo

Just the other day at the Cleveland Zoo, I watched a child sit on the wooden overhang in the cheetah pit.  I wanted to run over and snatch her off it.  That is why I was dismayed, but not surprised, when I heard that, on Saturday, a child had fallen into the cheetah pit at the Cleveland Zoo.

First, the backstory: the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is a treasure.  Not only are the animals cared for – they eat their catered meals in cozy, Eco-friendly habitats — but, the zoo is also really nice for people. We can see all of the animals eating their catered meals in their Eco-friendly habitats.  We have rhinos, a snow leopard, six giraffes, several zebras.  We have sharks and piranhas (if one more zoo keeper tells me they are vegetarian, I might lose it).  We have kangaroos and even our own eagle.

We go so often that my children know all the names of the animals.  We know when they get fed, we know when they will be up and running around.  When our beloved polar bear, Aurora, died, we cried.

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But, I have always had a few reservations about the Cleveland Zoo, which I pay handsomely for in my tax dollars.  There is a gang-plank ramp that zig-zags and weaves its way through the treetops and up a hill from “Australia” to the cheetah enclosure at the top (and the monkey house).

One time I saw a child fall and start rolling toward the edge of the ramp.  He would have fallen and probably been killed.  I picked him up, set him on his feet and kept walking.  His parents were completely oblivious.  A few years later, a net was installed on that ramp so that children could no longer plummet to their deaths through the beautiful Ohio trees.

Many times, I watched parents dangle their children over the sea lion enclosure.  My children are strong swimmers and while they begged me to lift them up (uh, no), I cringed in horror as I watched parents holding their children over that enclosure.

There is now a net covering that enclosure, too.

cleveland zooSo, it was just last Monday that I watched the child sitting on the cheetah enclosure railing.  The cheetah exhibit is my favorite.  We have four cheetahs.  The exhibit has a high, chain link fence and you can walk all the way around it.  So, even if the cheetahs are hiding or napping, we can usually find them and stare at their awesomeness.  Have you ever taken a serious look at one of those paws?  Well, you could, at the Cleveland Zoo.

From the viewing deck, you can look into a cave and see the cheetahs, if they are lounging in there.  You may have seen that view on the news.  There is, of course, a high wall.  But, we all know – people don’t pay attention, and people dangle their kids precariously over safeguards.  So, the Cleveland Zoo has a wooden awning hanging over the enclosure.  It is several slats of wood, slanted upward, hanging over the cheetah pit.

You would have to work really hard to get your kid over it.  You would have to reach up, over and then dangle.  Which, according to witnesses, is exactly what happened.

We have to stop the nonsense.  I have watched people doing stupid things with their kids for 12 years at this zoo.  I have staunchly told my kids no while they begged me to do the same stupid stuff.  The Cleveland Zoo has taken every precaution to ensure that no one is hurt by animals at our beautiful zoo.  (They have plenty of tax dollars at their disposal, just sayin’).

If this woman did dangle her child over that enclosure, she should be prosecuted.  And, the cheetah exhibit should stay exactly like it is.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

About the author

Julie Love

Julie Love is a former CPA who currently home-schools her two children. She earned her MS in Journalism from Ohio University in 2002. She was raised in rural Ohio and now lives in the big city of Cleveland.
You can see more of her work at Http://
Or follow her on Twitter @loveredneck

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