Number of Pittsburgh Zoo Visitors Drops After Wild Dog Attack

Shannon Turgeon, News Editor

The entrance to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Image courtesy of Google Images
The entrance to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Image courtesy of Google Images

Two months after a child was killed by African Painted dogs at the Pittsburgh Zoo, attendance has declined by thousands of people, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

In November and December 2012, only 39,066 people visited the zoo. Officials say that it is the lowest figure since November and December 2008, when 52,252 people were in attendance.

After the incident in which 2 year old Maddox Derkosh was killed, zoo officials and city police investigated his death, as written by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Visitors were evacuated and the zoo was closed on the day the attack occurred. Major Crimes Lieutenant Kevin Kraus stated that many people witnessed the accident, but an exact number could not be confirmed.

After the tragedy, the Tribune-Review reported that police had several safety concerns about the African Painted dog exhibit. The exhibit is now closed, and the observation deck that Derkosh fell off of has been removed. The zoo does not plan on putting the animals back on display any time soon.

Zoo officials also stated that they believe the decline in zoo attendance is due to bad weather. “Weather is one of the major factors that affect out attendance, as [with] any outdoor event. If it’s sunny or bright, people will come, but if it’s raining or snowing, it’s kind of a deterrent,” zoo spokeswoman Tracy Gray told the Tribune-Review.

A spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Steve Feldman, also attributed the drop in visitors to weather. He explained that good or bad weather on weekends and holidays can particularly influence attendance. The Pittsburgh Zoo was closed during the holidays on December 26th and 29th due to a snowstorm.

“When an unfortunate incident like [Derkosh’s death] occurs, we don’t generally see any corresponding drop in attendance. Community members are very supportive of zoos when these things happen. People don’t alter their plans because of something like this, in general,” Feldman stated.

In regards to whether or not the zoo would try to increase their number of visitors, Gray said, “We’ll continue on with what we normally do.”