Ellen Trout Zoo director assures gorilla exhibit will be safe

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - While questions still surround the killing of the 17-year-old silverback gorilla in Cincinnati, Lufkin zoo officials are confident their facility is safe and secure.

It's a parent's worst nightmare.

"I think I would have panicked," said Bernadette Gosey, who is an official at Burkeville ISD visiting the zoo Wednesday.

And it's the video that people can't stop talking about.

"It's bad all the way around," said Ellen Trout Zoo Director Gordon Henley.

However, many will never make the crucial decision of what to do in this life-or-death situation:

"I've seen all the social media and the comments made, but there's more to it than what we saw," Henley said.

Gosey agrees with the Cincinnati zoo's response.

"I would have thanked them for doing what they did because I wouldn't have wanted anything to happen," Gosey said.

Ellen Trout Zoo is looking to expand with a brand-new gorilla exhibit.

"We're looking to have two different enclosures, about three gorillas," Henley said.

Many wonder how a similar incident would have been handled in Lufkin.

"In the event of an animal emergency, we have an emergency response team," Henley said. "We call them the recovery team."

He said it's less about placing blame and more about ensuring trust in personnel to carry correct procedures

"In a crisis situation, people have to know that their decision is fully supported because there's a lot that can happen if you hesitate," Henley said.

There are steps being taken to ensure this doesn't happen in Lufkin. Some of the safety measures that Ellen Trout Zoo will receive when it gets to see gorillas will be high-wall barriers and double guardrails, making it hard for children to climb up and through.

"Make sure they are at hands reach," Gosey said. "A zoo is a large area."

Safety will always be the number-one priority for Ellen Trout Zoo,

"We always encourage parents to watch their kids," Henley said.

According to Ellen Trout Zoo officials, the gorilla enclosure is still in the fundraising phase. The zoo estimates the whole project will cost around $5 million.

Copyright 2016 KTRE. All rights reserved.