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Readers respond: The San Francisco Zoo is no place to put new pandas

Ex-zookeeper, visitor blast San Francisco Zoo's ‘incompetence,’ call it unsuitable for pandas and other animals

Two pandas walking side by side, monochrome image, with a tree trunk background.
CFOTO/Future Publishing/Getty Images

By Standard readers

In response to our recent opinion piece cautioning against bringing pandas to the San Francisco Zoo, The San Francisco Standard received numerous responses. The Standard is publishing a selection of readers’ comments with their permission. The responses have been edited for clarity and brevity. 

“I took my grandson to the San Francisco Zoo one time, and that was enough. 

It broke my heart to see so many pathetic animal displays, and I was shocked at the mind-numbing enclosure for the highly intelligent Western lowland gorillas. The lemur habitat was the only enclosure that came close to the quality we regularly enjoy at the Oakland Zoo.  

It was clear to me that the San Francisco Zoo does not prioritize the welfare of its animal inhabitants and has not changed much from the time when zoos were a place of animal exploitation rather than putting animals first.

I fear for the fate of any pandas that are put under the care of the SF Zoo.”

Cathy Mattison

“After working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service for a number of years, I took a position at the San Francisco Zoo. Even though I had previously worked for the federal government, what I saw was utter and complete incompetence. The union is disgruntled and lazy and holds contempt for the management. The management sees the union as disgruntled and lazy. I don’t know what the solutions are, but I think you would have to scrap the entire management and the entire zookeeper staff and start from scratch to try to create a positive, constructive culture where the wildlife and the visitors come first. 

There is absolutely no way they can securely manage pandas. Anyone who wanted to steal the pandas or cause them harm would easily be able to do so at will. 

I feel so bad for the animals in that zoo. I even feel bad for the animals that are wild that come in and visit the zoo. Once, I saw a red fox sneak into the zoo, and the Keystone Cop behavior that ensued was too sad to laugh at. The zookeepers ran around and fumbled all over each other, almost shooting themselves. While I was at the zoo, a zookeeper got her arm ripped off by the same tiger that jumped out of its ill-suited exhibit and killed a boy who was taunting it. A koala got stolen. As you mentioned in your article, the lemur got stolen, and other animals have had incredible mishaps. 

The San Francisco Zoo is a sad travesty, and if we want an international incident, then we should get the pandas as soon as possible so that China can see how horribly managed America really is. My suggestion to Mayor London Breed and state Sen. Scott Wiener was to put the pandas at the California Academy of Sciences or the Oakland Zoo, where at least they would have a fighting chance for survival.” 

—James Aliberti

Don't send the pandas

"I agree with the author of the article about the zoo being a terrible (my word) place for the pandas. I wish I could tell the Chinese not to send them to this zoo. Do they realize what they are doing to those innocent pandas?! It infuriates me."

—Kathy Crabe

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