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Why Did They Not Dart The Tiger

Updated on November 13, 2017

Each time a Tiger, Lion, Bear or other dangerous animal escapes and is shot dead does someone ask the question: “Why didn’t they dart it?”, “Why didn’t they anaesthetise it?”, “Did they really have to kill it?”

Sadly the answer is usually Yes! Yes they did. Sad though it is.

The darting of an animal does not go as it does on the movies or on TV. It is not simply a case for firing and injecting in the anaesthetic and the animal falls instantly asleep. It doesn’t! It could take anything from five to twenty minutes and even longer.

How soon an animal falls asleep depends on a number of factors. The main ones are:

How stressed is the animal?

Did it get the full dose?

What part of the body was hit?

Because they had to shoot it!

Imagine if you were to dart an escaped tiger and the dart hit the posterior. The shock may cause it to run a mile or so before it retired into some rough ground to sleep it off. Waking during the night a whole worse situation could result.

Zoos should, in the event of an escape do an instant risk assessment. If the animal or animals can be contained safely then they could be darted and once sedated safely returned to their enclosure. You could even dart them in an uncontained area BUT, the moment the animal approaches the perimeter fence of the zoo it should, it must be shot dead.

Consider also that not all zoos have the anaesthetics on site. These may be held by the veterinary surgeon in a location off the zoo premises. An escape will necessitate a call to the vet who may be working elsewhere. He may have to return to his premises for drugs and darting equipment. Making up a dart to the right dose takes preparation. Making up several doses will take longer.

Rest assured that in no responsible zoo is an animal ever shot out of hand. It is done because it has to be done. The alternatives could make an already difficult and dangerous situation into a disaster.

It is importat that all zoos have an escape plan in place. That all staff know what to do. That practice sessions are carried out regularily and that all staff are properly trained.

Zoo staff weep! They sometimes have to take actions they do not like. Far better that escapes never happen.

Learn more at Zoo Misconceptions

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