Weird Nature The Worst Things That Have Ever Happened at Zoos  

Ryan Davis
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When one spends a day at the zoo, they may expect a little excitement, a little curiosity, and an awesome chance to see some of wildlife's most vibrant, odd, and fascinating creatures. What you don't expect is to fall into the pit of a lion's den and have your clothes and body parts ripped to shreds. Although you're likely in the vast majority that has never had the unfortunate luck of experiencing such a high-stakes standoff against nature's greatest predators, there are some who have not been so fortunate. For every photographer leaning just a little too closely over the edge than they should be, there are major zoo accidents waiting to happen. Catastrophic zoo deaths make crazy news stories because they're actually so rare. But even some of the most experienced wildlife trainers, biologists, and veterinarians have had some very, VERY bad things happen to them at the zoo. 

All bad zoo news stories, unique in their own way, are nature's way of telling us that these beasts are not to be messed with. Lack of respect for the animal kingdom could cost you your arm or leg. And don't think that just because there's a thick layer of glass between you that these stronger-than-you-think mammals can't find a way to take you out if you piss them off enough. These animal anecdotes below are some of the worst things that have ever happened at zoos and are fair warning for your next visit. 

A Crocodile Was Stoned To Death At A Zoo In Tunisia


A Crocodile Was Stoned To Deat... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Worst Things That Have Ever Happened at Zoos
Photo: Ben124./flickr/CC-BY 2.0

A crocodile was stoned to death by visitors of a Tunisian zoo in March 2017. 

According to witnesses, a group of people visiting the Belvedere Zoo in Tunis, Tunisia, started throwing rocks and paving slabs at the animal. The crocodile died from a brain hemorrhage. The same zoo has come under fire before after photos of trash in the animals's pens made their way online. 

Harambe Gets Gunned Down to Save Toddler


Harambe Gets Gunned Down to Sa... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Worst Things That Have Ever Happened at Zoos
Photo:  NBC

A four-year-old made national headlines when he accidentally sneaked past his mother and protective fences at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2016. Unfortunately, the little boy found himself smack dab in the middle of the gorilla enclosure with a 450-pound silverback gorilla named Harambe. Zoo officials eventually had to shoot and kill the animal to protect the child (tranquilizing it could have caused an adverse, violent reaction). Some argued that the gorilla was actually trying to protect the child, although police were worried about his less-than-gentle dragging of the boy across the enclosure. The moral of the story? Keep an eye on your children at all times, especially at the zoo.

As for Harambe, the gorilla's death has unexpectedly sparked a rabid fan base, inspiring countless memes, artwork, and various other forms of Internet media. Much to the Cincinnati Zoo's chagrin, Harambe's martyrdom has motivated Internet users to troll the zoo's social media presence. The Cincinnati Zoo has since shut down their Twitter account in an attempt to make #justiceforharambe stop trending.

African Wild Dogs Catch Fallen Toddler


African Wild Dogs Catch Fallen... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Worst Things That Have Ever Happened at Zoos
Photo: Cloudtail the Snow Leopard/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
While spending a day at the Pittsburgh Zoo, two year-old Maddox Derkosh got too close to the railing's edge of an African Wild Dog exhibit. The toddler fell over into the netted area of the enclosure and was immediately attacked by a group of canines. Derkosh's parents looked on in terror as their son was mauled to death by the animals. The African Painted Dogs were scattered away after zookeepers intervened, but one dog refused to leave Derkosh's body, forcing security to open fire on the animal. Derkosh's family came to a settlement with the zoo a few years later, despite defense arguing that it was the parent's neglect which caused the child to fall.

A Rhino Was Shot By Poachers At A French Zoo


A Rhino Was Shot By Poachers A... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Worst Things That Have Ever Happened at Zoos
Photo: Rose Robinson/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

A group of poachers broke into a French zoo in March 2017 and shot dead a four-year-old white rhinoceros for his horn. The rhino, named Vince, lived at the Thoiry Zoo as part of the African enclosure.

Zoo officials found the rhinos body the next day with his horn sawed off. Poachers tried to saw off his second horn, but were unsuccessful. Police said this is the first crime of its kind in France. Vince's subspecies is extremely threatened, and animal's death was heartbreaking for zoo officials. The other two rhinos that share the enclosure were not hurt. Authorities suspect the criminals were interrupted and made off before getting the horns of the others.