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Why Did the Zoo Close Early Yesterday?

by Prince Of Petworth April 5, 2012 at 10:30 am 36 Comments

Photo by flickr user thisisbossi

Yesterday afternoon we noted that the zoo closed early and crowds temporarily overwhelmed the Woodley Park metro. At the time the official response from the National Zoo on twitter was:

“We closed at 5 pm today due to capacity spring crowds. Parking is difficult this time of year, so take Metro if you’re able!”

Last night a PoPville follower tweeted that she thought the closure was because of the fight. This morning I saw a comment from Bossi with a link to his photos and tweets about the fight. He notes 4 fights before the closure:

“Fight 4 stopped when 1 girl pulls an orange-tipped toy gun. Guess it’s good that it’s a fake, but really: you pull an orange tip in a fight?”

If the zoo closed as a result of fights why would not just say it closed because of fights?

Unfortunately violence at the zoo is not completely uncommon this time of year. Last year on April 25th, 2011 the zoo closed as a result of a stabbing. And in April 2000 there was a shooting at the Zoo.

  • Doesn’t portend well for this coming Monday. I really hope it doesn’t turn into yet another steamy hot mess like it did last year.

    • ah

      And it’s posts like this, and speculation about what bad events will occur at the African-American Family Day, that lead the zoo not to explain why they closed.

      • Well, when the speculation is proven true and people have to witness what we saw yesterday, what do you expect people to think?

      • I’m not sure I follow. Are you saying the zoo is keeping things close to the best to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings even if serious events (that the public should know about) are occurring? That’s a bad policy.

  • anon

    Good grief.

  • Capacity crowds combined with rowdy teenagers and groups fighting with each other has go to stress the hell out of the animals. I hope they have extra staff on hand for the expected crowds on Easter monday.

  • Human’s fighting sets a bad example for the zoo’s lesser evolved species.

    • Anonymous

      Pretty funny.

    • Pahbs

      nicely done.

    • That reminds me of a quote from (I believe) Eleanor Holmes Norton:

      “You’re the product of thousands of years of evolution. Act like it.”

  • I was the twitter follower that said it was related to a fight. I was surprised the Zoo staff tweeted about being closed due to being at capacity since there are multiple entrances/exits and it’s not like they use staff to keep track of who’s coming and going.

    Woodley Park was a cluster yesterday around 5:15 as people left the zoo. I watched 50-75 kids chase a car down Connecticut Avenue as it turned onto Woodley, followed by a cop car with its sirens going. The sidewalks were jam packed with kids scuffling with each other, screaming and cursing and the metro station was chaos.

    If you do a twitter search for zoo fight, it would appear people started planning this the day before. Makes me shake my head – it’s the zoo with lots of families and people just looking to enjoy themselves. WTF is wrong with people?

    • This is why we can’t have nice things.

  • It was all over twitter that there were going to be fights at the zoo before they even happened. Kids were making plans about it the night before.

    • anon

      This makes me picture a modern version of the pre-rumble scenes from West Side Story.

      • Thanksforthelaugh


  • TG

    This type of behavior is outrageous. I am in favor of a simple policy that authorizes the police at the zoo to place you in an animal cage of their choice (with the animal) if you are found not to be acting like a civilized human being. Serious offenses, like the stabbing, might get you the lion’s den while lesser offenses may only get you thrown in with less predatory animals.

    • I think that would be really mean to the animals. They don’t want bratty punks in their cage. Except maybe the tigers…

  • j

    The blatant disinformation campaign on the part the Zoo is frankly the most disturbing part of this for me. If it is unsafe (based on kids planning fights via twitter or any reason whatsover) shouldn’t the public be told why. Capacity spring crowds is laughably deceitful.

    Thanks PoP for posting this news. I wish your colleagues witin the news community would pick this up and run with it.

    • TG

      It was a type-o. They actually meant rapacity spring grouds.

    • Anonymous

      Pretty typical for a federal organization such as the Smithsonian, or the NPS, for example, who have no almost no real oversight other than congress—who think they have much more pressing matters to attend to—to do whatever they want to, without the fear of any consequences.

  • Bossi

    To copy/paste from my linked Storify, a bit of a defense on the zoo’s part:

    I really don’t fault the Zoo for their handling either on-site or online. On-site the guards were very responsive and that they called in police — even going to the degree of feeling a full closure was justified — shows that they had a strong commitment to ensuring safety and addressing the problem.

    Online, I honestly wouldn’t expect them to say it’s because of fistfights, weapons, bad kids, etc… look at their Twitter feed: it’s about cute animals, naming cute animals, photos of cute animals, and bringing your kids to come see the cute animals. They don’t need something that sounds so hellish.

    It’s also not necessarily a lie of any sort… sure, it whitewashes things a bit: but the crowding at the entry (and throughout the park) was intense, and it was the masses of kids at the entry which surely made it an increasingly volatile situation which was even more difficult to control. So the museum may have omitted the details, but I feel they acted justifiably so.

  • classic_six

    My guess is that it’s done for various reasons: PR, in general, and so as not to create panic, which could cause a stampede where more people get hurt.

  • wow! i guess living next to the zoo and having a kid is no longer a bonus.

    also, i don’t get the point of linking to Bossi’s “pictures”. i guess if you wanted to see photos of what the scene was like after everyone disbursed then they were really informative.

  • Bloomingdale Rez

    Doesn’t sound like April is the best month to visit the zoo.

    Re: zoo’s tweet – when Metro sends out an alert about a track problem, they don’t say it is because of a suicide (attempt).

    • Mar

      I dont see these as similar. If I know about things like this going on at the zoo, I might plan my trip differently (eg going earlier in the morning on a school day rather than in the afternoon/evenings). As crass as it sounds, there’s not really any good reason for me to know it was a suicide versus anything else because it wouldnt impact my safety or behavior.

      • j

        Concur completely. Nieces are visiting this weekend. We won’t be going to the zoo.

  • anon

    Emmaleigh is right, these events are always planned on Twitter. I don’t understand why the police/zoo don’t monitor the Twitter tweeps for words like “zoo” “fight” I dunno, whatever key words kids use to plan flash mob fights?! They should have known this was coming.

    • It is pretty easy to say that in retrospective, but a little hard to predict. What should I be searching twitter for today? Fight on the Mall? Flashmob robbery at Union Station? something else?

      • Zoo was trending in DC all morning yesterday. If you click it you will see that tons of teens were talking about going to the zoo and what was going to happen. Keeping in mind that this kind of thing happens every spring, it seem natural to check social media. That’s why I checked to see why zoo was trending.

  • anonymous

    Of all the things to be worried about, how a tax-dollar-funded Smithsonian organization delicately handled what could be a hot-button issue is the least of them.

    Few things are touchier in this city than noting the profile of most of the criminal suspects. Sign up for DC Alerts via DC govt and find out what eye-witness-identified BM LOFs are.

    The real issue is a culture in which kids plan ahead of time to fight at the zoo. And we keep the animals behind bars?

    • Anonymous

      Its touchy because of the wrong headed finger pointing approaches that people like you make. It’s not an is vs them problem an when you try to frame it that way it inevitably results In fingers pointing at the wrong people.

      • anonymous

        I’m not placing blame or pointing a finger, but am saying that the stereotype of the DC criminal is a hot-button issue, and understandably so, and so the zoo seemed to be cautious about this situation. I’m saying there’s a culture of chaos and crime that has a lot of internal and external causes, some very much in the here and now, some decades old, some centuries old. I live in the world of gunshots and stabbings–right on my block–there’s been one each year I’ve been there. I’ve heard the shots and the tires squealing a number of times, I’ve seen the bodies lying in the street and on the sidewalk. I’m not an “us”, in opposition to “them”. I’m part of the community and am a secondary victim of the crimes–hoping never to be a primary victim.

        • anon

          It seems odd and disturbing to me that facts should be “hot-button” issues. It suggests that there are a lot of people out there actively trying to suppress facts/truths. Then you start asking yourself: why? It’s a very deep, very dark hole…

    • I don’t see this as a profiling issue. Personally, I don’t care about the characteristics of the troublemakers, but it would be nice to know when trouble or extreme crowding is occurring so as to avoid it, if possible.

  • Anonymous

    This whole event makes me sad. The zoo is a *magical* place for my two toddlers, and for other kids like them. I hate having to herd them away from groups of toughs spouting obscenities amid the innocence and wonder. Choosing such a place for rumbles is just ugly and unacceptable.


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