Lake Superior Zoo Officials React To Killer Whale Tragedy

By KBJR News 1

Lake Superior Zoo Officials React To Killer Whale Tragedy

August 6, 2010 Updated Feb 25, 2010 at 9:02 PM CDT

DULUTH, MINN. --- It happened yesterday at Sea World in Orlando. Veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau was dragged underwater and drowned by a killer whale she'd worked with for years.

Here in the Northland, Officials at Lake Superior Zoo say it's a tragedy, but no surprise.

Lake Superior Zoo is home to six species of dangerous carnivores.

That includes Maruska the polar bear, Trouble the Grizzly, two beautiful Siberian tigers, and a snow leopard named Harry.

However, unlike Sea World, Lake Superior Zoo is a no–contact facility.

"The basic policy is always keep a closed door between you and the animal," says Zoo Curator Peter Pruett.

Lake Superior Zoo keepers use a "Lock–out, tag–out" system and no animals come into contact with humans. When zoo gates and access doors are opened, only the keeper who's in the enclosure has a specially labeled key. The doors cannot be opened or closed without the key.

As for Wednesday's Killer Whale tragedy, Curator Peter Pruett says it was a freak accident that probably couldn't have been prevented.

"Who's to say what happened with the Orca?" Pruett said. "He might have had a bad day. And when you're 12–thousand pounds, a bad day is a bad day for the trainers around them."

Experts say the biggest mistake trainers make is forgetting that captive animals are still wild and very dangerous.

Written for the web by Matt Standal