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Back in the Saddle?

By Katie Taft · June 10th, 1999 · Burning Questions

The camel ride that's been offered at the Cincinnati Zoo for 20 years hit a bump on May 29.

A woman, who accepted the offer, fell off the camel and was taken in an ambulance to an area hospital.

Why did this incident occur and what measures have been taken to prevent it from happening again?

Donna Oehler, zoo spokeswoman, said the camel ride is very safe.

"The camel ride is something done at other major zoos," Oehler said.

"We ride about 23,000 or 24,000 people every year for 20 years. I think we have a pretty good safety record."

The camel ride is in a contained area and the people ride on top of the animal in a saddle, she said. As far as preventing any future problem, Oehler said that "all the right mechanisms are in place."

She said the woman reported shoulder and hip pain. The zoo was thankful that the woman did not suffer any major injuries, Oehler said.

In other zoo news, an upcoming benefit for the zoo's conservation work overseas on June 14 at Music Hall will have a guest appearance by either one or two cheetahs from the zoo.

Didn't the zoo, a few years ago, implement a policy that no cat over 50 pounds would be taken off zoo grounds?

Yes and no.

The policy was initiated after Thane Maynard's daughter was mauled by a Bengal tiger. Maynard is the director of education for the zoo.

Kenya and Moya, the cheetahs that might make an appearance at the benefit, are part of the cat ambassador program at the zoo.

The cheetahs are exceptions to the zoo's policy, Maynard said.

The cheetah, he said, grows to be no bigger than about 100 pounds and has a totally different temperament than that of a tiger or lion, which can grow to be 300 or 400 pounds.

"We do take the cheetahs out," Maynard said. "They are a hallmark of our cat ambassador program. They are very different from tigers or lions."

The policy was put in place as a safety protocol, and the zoo makes adjustments to its safety protocol as issues come up, he said.

For example, Maynard said that the zoo discontinued the elephant rides after looking at safety issues, but still continued the camel ride.



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