Monday, January 07, 2008

Child Bitten at Ark of Avilon

Zoos are nothing but trouble. Zoo animals usually pay the price for human oversight, as we have learned as recently as the Christmas day tiger attack at the San Francisco zoo. There, the enclosing wall was built too short and taunts from the patrons are now suspected as the reason why the tiger leaped into action, killing one and injuring two. Tatiana, the tiger, was shot to death. Since 1990, 220 such incidents in 40 states (USA) involving big cats have occurred. Four children and fifteen adults have lost their lives and fifty other people have lost limbs or suffered other injuries after being mauled (PETA). Zoos are not as safe as they seem, and I reject the very notion that it is wholesome family entertainment. Quite strongly, I believe that zoos practice animal cruelty by dint of animal imprisonment, be it in a small cage, an aviary, or within the confines of a large ( but never large enough ) enclosure. So, an email relating a snake bite on a child ( actually, a 17-yr old girl ) at a zoo called Ark of Avilon ( Pasig, The Philippines) naturally pricked my interest. The story tells us that even at a small petting area, you could find yourself lost in a jungle of poor planning and finger-pointing.

Jerry Liao began with " My Family and I visited the new Arc of Avilon (AoA)Zoo located at Frontera Verde near Tiendesitas in Pasig last January 5, 2008. The highlight of the said zoo is they allow people especially kids to touch their animals like orangutan, parrots, eagles,rabbits, tortoise and snakes. And when you allow your kids to touch these animals, you trust that the animals are harmless and are trained not to hurt its visitors. "

Then, the clouds gather, " Unfortunately, my 2nd daughter was bitten by an Albino King Snake. Her finger was bloodied so I quickly ask where the clinic was located. I saw a sign that read Hospital/Quarantine , I quickly open the door but found nothing inside but some cages and two people talking. I ask if there's a doctor there and they said none. Then the king snake handler came over and directed us to follow him. I thought we would be brought to a clinic. To my dismay, we were brought to a dirty pantry full of flies. And the handler administered Betadine to my daughter's finger, which was stored in a soy sauce gallon container. A park with no clinic,no doctor and no medicine."

Father and daughter are on their own, " I took my daughter to the hospital, and upon reaching the hospital the first question was what kind of snake bit my daughter. I told them its an Albino King Snake. They were not sure whether the king snake is a venomous or a non-venomous snake. They said they had to consult an expert about this. After awhile, Thank God that the king snake was a non-venomous one. But the doctors wanted to be sure so they gave my daughter an anti-tetanus drug and ask her to take anti-biotics for seven days."

Rejection and passing the buck, " After reaching home, I texted both Jake and Tina Gaw (owners of AoA) that the doctor asked us to observe my daughter's condition. I also told them that I am going to write about this horrible experience. Tina texted back and said: "Jerry, if thats how bad you felt, I respect your personal feelings concerning the incident. I wish she (my daughter) could have been more careful in handling the snake or other pets as well especially this one is exotic. Even tame ones, rabbit, tortoise, mouse, pig bite when they felt hurt or frighten when not properly handled. And its really sad when you felt it became a horrible issue."

Jerry clears the air and sorts out the mess, " Now it's my daughter's fault to be bitten by the snake? AoA never bothered to offer their help and now they blame my daughter for the incident. That was a very insensitive remark by Tina. I don't think the snake was hurt or frighten, they were tired and irritated because they were being used to entertain people. Exotic you say? Why allow them to be touched by people? Yes, I agree that animals bite when they felt hurt or frightened, but let me remind the management of AoA that most of your audience are children, I even saw some as young as two years old. They will just touch and play with the animals without knowing whether they're hurting them or not. It is AoA's responsibility to make sure that none of their animals be hurt or frigthened so that biting won't happen.And since accidents happen, how come Arc of Avilon don't even have a clinic to at least administer some first-aid solution. What if the eagles decided to peck the visitors, or use their big claws to attack the visitors. Donkey or horse suddenly kicking. And snakes biting. There should be a doctor, a clinic and first-aid kit to address this kind of unfortunate incidents. "

Jerry's got some good advice for us and the management, " Arc of Avilon should not allow people to touch a snake that bites plus they should have expert handlers to assist its visitors. All the Arc of Avilon management can say is that the snake is a non-venomous one. No other help was offered, and then they will blame the visitors for mishandling the animals. Am I overacting? I don't think so. What are the chances that you will get bitten by a snake in the metropolis? Worst in a theme park like Arc of Avilon.As a parent, will you take it sitting down? Will you just take their word for it that it's non-venomous? Remember, its a snake-bite. Let this be a warning to all my readers who are planning to visit Arc of Avilon at Tiendesitas or any other zoo for that matter. Let my story be a lesson to all. You can ask your kids to look but as much as possible DO NOT TOUCH. Better yet, DO NOT VISIT the Arc of Avilon totally, until they improve their facilities. Never again will we go to the Arc of Avilon.Thank you and more power. God Bless us all! "

Well, can you blame the man? And how about those who we haven't heard from because they don't have the eloquence and wherewithal to express their dissatisfaction? Are there other cases like Jerry's? At the very least, management owes its paying public a good level of support especially in terms of scientific expertise ( who are the zoologists in charge of the animals), immediate and proper medical attention if needed ( is there a medical professional in the house / not even a first aid kit), and the truth about animal behaviour ( that they can bite, kick, spit, peck, claw, chew or grab in spite of the assurances of the handlers).

And what about the animals themselves? They can't write emails and complain about their living conditions. All over the world, zoo managers speak for the animals, and what a frightening thought that is. We are expected to assume that all is well with them in spite of captivity.

If Filipino society was particularly litigious, there would be a lawsuit brewing here. However, Jerry's story calls for improvement, not war. As for me, I'd implore management to altogether quit this business, a business euphemistically called a zoo or an ark, but after all it comes down to animal imprisonment. History has proven that it is only a matter of time before some people will get seriously hurt. Then, scapegoats will be in serious demand.

When zoos fail to protect the public, it will ultimately be the animals' fault. Surely, it is quite convenient to blame those who can't articulate a defense. As we have seen before, killing the animals would be the acceptable solution although they reacted in the way that God meant them to. In this case, I must stress, for now, that there is no indication that the snake in question is facing such a prospect.

In fairness, since we have not fully and directly heard from the management of Ark of Avilon, I'd like to invite them to respond. I'll give them the last word on this.


If the snake was, indeed, a King Snake, then here is some information about it:

King Snakes are not venomous, but, like pythons, they bite. King Snakes are good snakes to have in the field because they kill rodents, and they can also strangulate venomous snakes like copperheads and rattlesnakes. Believe it or not, King Snakes are not affected by the venom of those deadly snakes. King Snakes feed on other snakes, small mammals, lizards, birds, turtle eggs, and frogs. They are considered constrictors. They are generally found from southeastern Canada to Ecuador, and they are terrestial although found near water as well. In captivity, they can survive for as long as 30 years or more. They lay eggs in clutches of 5–24. ( This is not a photo of the King Snake at Ark of Avilon ).


xtine said...

Thank you for this information. I am looking forward to bring my kids to the Avilon Zoo, but this issue made me think twice..

Is the management doing their job how to give good service to their customers??

I hope they will improve their service to the people, because most of them are children..

they also must know how to protect the animals not be harmed and not to harm as well.

this is really alarming to the Parents who will bring their kids to see the animals at Ark Avilon Zoo.

Chessbuff said...

Hi Xtine...I have looked around the web for any official response from the zoo, but nothing. However, the extent of the bad publicity, I trust, will move managment to improve their service because the next time could mean a lawsuit. Animals get irritated too when they are tired, and so don't be the one to bear the brunt.