Amid the raging waters of Spring Creek, workers at ZooAmerica struggled to save the lives of two North American bison.
Ultimately, one would drown. The other, close to the same fate, would be shot.
The zoo defended itself by saying there was nothing its staff could to do to save the animals — the water simply rose too fast and higher than expectations.
On Tuesday, after months of criticism, calls for an investigation and other finger-pointing, the federal government put an end to “Bisongate.”
Alyn Kiel, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said ZooAmerica took appropriate steps to try and save the two animals based upon previous flooding in the area.
“Because of the nature of the back-to-back storms, they could not have anticipated the extent of the flooding as it actually occurred,” she said.
Floodwaters in the area reached record levels on Sept. 7, peaking at or above marks set by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972.
In nearby Hersheypark, water from Spring Creek inundated the park’s aqua theater, something that Gary Chubb, the park’s maintenance manager, said had only happened once before.
Kiel said that while “tragic,” the deaths of Esther and Ryan were not related to any noncompliance on the part of the facility.
Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Co., which owns ZooAmerica, said in a statement that it hasn’t received the report, but “the summary of its findings certainly provides validation for the efforts put forth by the ZooAmerica team to secure the safety of the animals within their care during the extreme and historic flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee.”
“The responsibility that our zoo personnel have and feel in that regard is absolute, and the loss they experienced was felt deeply by each and every member of the team — and, truly, by our entire company,” said Garrett Gallia, associate vice president for communications.
In addition to being cleared of any wrongdoing, the ZooAmerica also was recently the subject of an operational review by the USDA, which concluded that the park was in compliance with all regulations.
That review was sparked in part by a complaint filed by PETA in September, expressing outrage over the deaths.
In the letter to the department, Alex Thorton, a PETA specialist, claimed the deaths could have been prevented, and urged the USDA to “hold ZooAmerica responsible for the lack of oversight.”
The USDA has said that any complaint against a zoo automatically causes a review to be conducted.
Kiel said Tuesday that based upon the circumstances, the department would have reviewed the park’s operations regardless of PETA’s letter.
The deaths of the two bison also garnered national attention following Tropical Storm Lee.
Online, more than 100 people flooded the park’s blog with comments, ranging from negative screeds against the park to well-wishers.
Most of it, however, was negative, equating the park to Michael Vick, now the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who was sentenced to prison for dogfighting in 2007.
The criticism, however, shifted away from the park in recent weeks after an Ohio man released wolves, lions, tigers and bears into a small community before taking his own life.
But reaction to the animals’ deaths wasn’t completely negative. Some people found humor in the situation, including the person who created Twitter accounts for the bison.
According to them, the animals’ deaths was actually an elaborate ploy to escape the zoo. The two bison are now on the lam, enjoying the local night life.
The gag quietly petered out after a month.
Meanwhile, a little more than a week after the flood, ZooAmerica reopened to the public.
The only reminders of the incident is that the bison pens remain empty — and all trace of them has been removed. Even maps at the park do not reference the animals.
It isn’t known if the park will seek new bison for the enclosure, or change it to something else.
Hershey Entertainment & Resorts said Tuesday that no decision has been made regarding the future of the bison exhibit.
The Boycott ZooAmerica Facebook page is now saying that Hershey paid them off..... wow.
Seriously...they get crap for trying to save their animals, crap for not closing and "risking everyone's lives" during a big rainstorm, and crap for closing due to inclement weather - snow in October! And yet they give rebates for tickets and post constant updates on Facebook showing how hard they're working to get everything back in shape. It's such a shame to see a place that tries so hard (and does so well) get so much crap.
1. Skyrush | 2. Maverick | 3. The Voyage | 4. El Toro | 5. Outlaw Run 6. Millennium Force | 7. I-305 | 8. Medusa: SC | 9. X2 | 10. Phoenix
From these new renderings, it looks to me like the hill above the bottom of the first drop is banked at the top (possibly a Stengel Dive?) instead of un-banked like a standard airtime hill (which is what I assumed). That looks like a cool element to throw in. I circled it in the picture. EDIT:You can also see the hill/turn at the bottom of the other picture.
Is it just me or is every coaster at Hershey a completely odd layout? Nevermind odd, just messy looking. I've never seen so many rides stacked on top of each other. I get the whole Disney kinetic thing, where there are things moving and happening all around you, but Hershey just looks like chaos.
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