Should Zoos Have Better Fencing? The USDA Says… Maybe

It’s not often that a story about fencing goes viral, but here we are.

Unless you live completely off the grid, then you no doubt heard about the shooting of a gorilla at a Cincinnati Zoo after a toddler fell into the exhibit. The incident achieved an advanced level of viral heat only seen by the death of Cecil the Lion, the Dress, and Donald Trump. Yet in the wake of the Cincinnati gorilla’s death, people around the country are suddenly wondering why zoos don’t have better fences between visitors and dangerous predators.

Millions of Americans want fence installation services to install tall security fences around their homes. U.S. zoning committee experts say that fully 80 to 90% of fencing applications are for privacy fences. But the truth is, zoo visitors want to get up close and personal with wild animals. The lack of visible barriers and fencing is part of the thrill. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does have certain rules about zoo fencing. For primates and smaller animals, zoos are required to have at least a six-foot fence between animals and visitors. For large predators, like tigers, bears, and gorillas, zoos need eight-foot fencing.

However, so long as there is a “natural barrier,” like a trench or moat, USDA regulations don’t apply, hence, the ease with which a small child accessed an exhibit full of dangerous and endangered gorillas. But that may be changing.

The USDA recently told Ohio’s 10TV that they are now considering big changes to their zoo enclosure regulations, although only time will tell if any political interest remains in zoo fencing 12 months from now. While the USDA says they are ” addressing appropriate barriers and fencing,” they also told 10TV that “there is no timeframe on this.”

Should zoos around the country decide to upgrade their enclosures, there’s no shortage of fencing companies up for the challenge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 270,455 people employed by the fencing industry, which generates about $51 billion in revenue during a good year.

While the Cincinnati Zoo is reportedly beefing up the fences around their now notorious gorilla exhibit, other zoos are likely hoping people quickly forget about Harambe the gorilla. For now, the easiest solution is probably to keep a close eye on your kid when you’re looking at dangerous predators at the zoo.