Category: Archive

No Irish Need ‘Pet’

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Just arrived in the States from Ireland? Great.

Thinking about a visit to the world-famous Bronx or Central Park Zoos during your visit?

No problem at all, but stick to the lions and tigers. All the big stuff you don’t feed, pet or scratch behind the ears.

Visitors to these zoos and others in New York City who have arrived from Ireland — or any other country presently affected by foot-and-mouth disease — are being asked to skip the petting zoos popular with young children.

The reason is the extremely remote, but still possible, transfer of the animal disease to the likes of sheep and goats who line up to be hand fed by people of all ages.

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As a result, warning signs have been posted in recent days at the entrances to the children’s petting zoos run by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

The restriction, which clearly relies heavily on the good will and cooperation of visitors, covers the Bronx Zoo’s children’s zoo, the zoo’s camel ride and the children’s zoos in Manhattan’s Central Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, and Prospect Park in Brooklyn

The signs do not refer to people arriving from specific countries. Indeed, they appear to be directed primarily at Americans who have just returned from visits abroad.

A sign posted at the entrance to the Tisch Children’s Zoo, which is adjacent to, but separate from, Central Park Zoo, reads, "If you have traveled outside of North America in a Foot and Mouth Disease-affected country within the past five days, please do not visit our animal contact exhibit."

There is no such sign at the adjoining Central Park Zoo, but physical contact between animals and humans does not take place in that facility.

Linda Corcoran, assistant director of communications for the Wildlife Conservation Society, explained that the zoos simply did not want to take chances and were pursuing a safety-first policy.

"The world is so small these days that we have to be certain about protecting our animals," Corcoran said.

Ever smaller though it may be, the chances of a visitor from Ireland, or another country battling foot and mouth, passing on the disease to a hungry goat in New York is indeed extremely remote.

At the very least, an individual carrying the disease on footwear of clothes would have to come straight from an infected farm without changing or washing those clothes, somehow avoid the disinfecting procedures at airports, head straight for the petting zoo and hug the nearest cloven-hoofed animal.

Still, stranger things have happened.

"Yes it is such a long shot, but we have to do what is responsible," Corcoran said.

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