A 2-year-old boy was recently dropped by his mother into the cheetah exhibit at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo. I’ve been to the zoo numerous times, since it’s fairly close to where I live. I’m guessing it was my public relations senses tingling when I heard this story, but I immediately wondered how the zoo was going to handle this incident. It’s not every day you hear of a child being dropped into a cheetah pit. Witnesses stated that the boy’s mother was dangling him over the railing and he must have slipped from her arms and fell about 10 feet into the exhibit.
Right after he fell, both parents went down to retrieve him and the cheetahs seemed to not even care the boy or his parents were down there (thank God). I think the family and the zoo are incredibly lucky that the cheetahs didn’t attack. This situation could have been a public relations nightmare if one of the family members had been injured or killed.
In capstone, we are discussing image repair and and crises. I would bet the zoo has various crisis plans for incidents such as this since they do have dangerous animals and I think they handled it appropriately. They kept the cheetah exhibit open, but closed the observation deck just to be safe. I would have most likely done the same thing. They also issued a statement stating that they are committed to the safety of their guests and workers and that’s why they closed the deck. If the cheetahs would have attacked, then more serious measures would have been taken such as closing the exhibit all together and figuring out what might have triggered the aggression.
The witnesses also added a great deal of reassurance that it was not the zoos fault at all. And because of that, the mother has been charged with child endangerment and the father, although present, has not been charged.