Targets at zoo lacked alarms
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Targets at zoo lacked alarms

By James Carlson

Created May 18, 2010 at 9:04pm

Updated May 18, 2010 at 11:53pm

Nearly all of the exhibits and buildings at the Topeka Zoo are protected by alarm systems, a city official said Tuesday, a day after the second break-in in two weeks and the third since August.

In total, 13 exhibits and buildings have alarms. Two that aren't are the arctic fox and bobcat cages, both areas that were vandalized earlier this month.

Asked whether it was coincidence the few unalarmed exhibits were targeted, city spokesman David Bevens said police continue to investigate but haven't determined a suspect.

Despite the majority of areas maintaining alarms, further measures are a possibility.

"If we're being targeted by copycats or the same individual, the level of security needs to be looked at," Bevens said.

On Monday, Topeka police officers were called to the zoo around 8:30 a.m. and found a hole cut in the perimeter fence near the animal hospital and a golf cart stolen. Earlier this month, the perimeter fence near the Gage Shelter House was cut through, and a vandal or vandals broke into the bobcat exhibit and released the animal. The bobcat, named Johnson, later was captured on the zoo grounds.

The fencing for the arctic fox enclosure also was cut during that incident, though the fox didn't escape.

A similar crime occurred in August when someone or multiple people broke in and let loose the bobcat, which later was found on the zoo grounds.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums requires round-the-clock security at its facilities. Its standards prefer a security guard but allow for electronic security if resources don't allow for a guard. Bevens said the AZA, during its 2007 accreditation visit, found no problems with the security.

He noted that the perimeter fence has worked for 50 years without incidents.

"Something that worked yesterday apparently doesn't work today," he said.

Brendan Wiley, the zoo's new director, will begin his tenure on Monday, when Bevens said earnest discussions will begin about the zoo's reaction to the recent vandalism.

"One of his first duties will be to review security measures already taken at the zoo and provide additional security options," Bevens said.

Additional electronic security has been discussed. Adding a guard hasn't been talked about, he said.

James Carlson can be reached at (785) 295-1186 or [email protected] and tweets at

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