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Safety concerns delay decision on Panaewa zoo importing tiger cubs

HILO >> State officials are holding off on allowing the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens to import tiger cubs.

The Department of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee on Plants and Animals decided Wednesday to take up the permit again at its next meeting, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports.

The zoo wants a permit to bring in tiger cubs from an Oregon big cat breeder.

Department spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi said Thursday issues like containment and public safety were brought up.

“They’ve got to come back and provide more information,” she said. “That will probably be in mid-November.”

Zoo director Pam Mizuno said concerns were from committee ex-officio voting member and Plant Industry Division administrator Neil Reimer.

“It sounded like what he was asking me, he had concerns, not of the tigers getting out, because, basically USDA has approved that part of it,” Mizuno said. “He had concerns the barriers separating the public from the tigers allowed people to climb over and get to the fence. So Ken Redman, who’s a former director of the Honolulu Zoo, explained the barrier is there, but unfortunately, you have some idiot people climb the fence. It happens all the time. So why should we be penalized when it happens at Honolulu Zoo, it happens at all (Association of Zoos & Aquariums accredited) zoos?”

Humane Society of the U.S. state director Inga Gibson is against the permit, and says the issue will probably resurface.

“There was a discussion about a number of cases around the world as of late with people falling into tiger enclosures or tigers escaping,” she said. “I had mentioned not only the concern about the tigers getting out or people falling in, but people throwing trash or other items in there, because it’s a relatively open exhibit, and the tigers could ingest items or who knows what people might throw in there.”

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