Gorilla Incident Causes PR Issues for Omaha Zoo

Article by Jacquelyn Desjardins | esPResso Committee Member


Image courtesy of Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia Commons

On April 16, a YouTube user posted a terrifying video of a Silverback gorilla charging and shattering the glass of its enclosure as a family looked on at Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska. The video was immediately met with questions regarding the safety and protocol of the zoo and its enclosures. The zoo’s lack of an timely response added to the criticism.

After the video was posted on YouTube, it immediately began to garner views, increasing as time went on. Four days after being posted, it had an impressive total of about 15 million views. The viral nature of the video has brought even more attention to the incident, causing many to question why the zoo failed to quickly respond and assure visitors of its attempts to look into the incident and check the integrity of the glass. David Deal, a marketing consultant in Chicago, told AdWeek, “The video makes the zoo look unsafe and scary.” Deal suggested that “The zoo should quickly create a video showing just how strong the panel is. It is important that the zoo actually show, not explain.”

Henry Zoo

Image courtesy of Cburnett/Wikimedia Commons

Finally, days later, the public relations team issued a statement in response to the viral video, stating, “The glass on the exhibit is engineered to account for the size, strength and speed of a large male gorilla…While one layer of glass on the exhibit did crack, leaving two layers untouched, the public was never in danger and the exhibit remains open.”

Though the response was delayed, it provides an adequate explanation of the event and can reassure visitors that the exhibit is well protected and remains safe. Unfortunately, the delayed response took away from the adequacy of the zoo’s statement. Despite the fact that it does clarify the event, it fails to explain why the zoo took so long to respond and didn’t match the medium where the crisis was taking place. The lack of a speedy response will most likely hurt their reputation in the future and cause visitors to be increasingly skeptical of the zoo’s safety.


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