Firearms Training For Zoos

What possessed 32 year old Mandy, to climb over the bars at Berlin Zoo into the Polar Bear enclosure at feeding time, is anyone’s guess, the result however was somewhat more likely to predict.  

Polar Bear Attack

(Above: Berlin Zoo April 2009 - Polar Bear Attack) 

At first the woman seemed elated as she swam toward one of the larger animals. This elation quickly turned to terror as horrified onlookers watched as the German teacher was mauled and bitten several times before zoo keepers finally managed to rescue her. 

Zoo Training

Likewise why Dhaliwal brothers Amritpal and Kulbir chose to goad the resident tiger 'Tatianna' at San Fransisco zoo shortly after closing time on December 25, 2007 is still up for debate, however when Tatiana escaped from her less than adequately secured open air-enclosure, she was able to kill one 17 year old visitor Carlos Eduardo Sousa Jr and severly injure both Dhaliwal brothers before she was shot by Police.

Firearms Training for Zoos

There are other incidents of dangerous animals injuring visitors to zoo’s, including a savage attack on 29-year-old Australian tourist Kathryn Warburton in July 1994. Kathleen jumped over two safety rails to get a close-up photograph of Polar Bear ‘Binky’ in his cage. When Binky stuck his head through the bars of the enclosure in Anchorage Alaska and grabbed her, she was lucky to survive after remaining in the animals jaws for several minutes.

Most recently, and since posting this article two further tragic incidents have occurred. The first on the 22nd May 2016 when two Lions were tragically shot dead by zoo keepers in an effort to save the life of a suicidal man that had climbed into the Lion enclosure at Santiago Zoo. 

Santiago Zoo attack

And most recently members of the Dangerous Animal Team at Cincinnati Zoo were required to make the difficult decision to shoot dead their Gorilla 'Harambe' when a 3 year old boy fell into the enclosure.

(Below: Lowland Gorilla 'Harambe' was tragically shot dead when a 3 year old boy fell into the enclosure) 

County Deer Stalking Zoo Training

So what’s the relevance of this? Well with increasing level of security being required by the Police, BIAZA (British Irish Association of Zoos & Aquariums) and the HSE, visitors to zoos up and down the country may not be aware of the substantial firearms training that many zoo keepers now have to undertake to protect the public in the event of these rare occurrences.     

So who is best equipped to train staff in the dispatch of large dangerous animals? Well it is in this field that professional large game hunters have a rare skill set. After all, who else can best advice on large calibre rifles, shot placement and shot reaction?

As such, occupying the rather unique position of coming from a Police background, 'County Deer Staking' (CDS) and the 'Capreolus Club', in consultation with its African contacts, are regularly involved in the training of zoo staff to help them deal with the eventualities of a breach of the enclosure; that is to say, animals getting out of their enclosure or members of the public getting in.

“The CDS Firearms Training course for Zoos was professional both in terms of content and delivery. Following a consultation process the content ensured that our zoo was up to date with UK legislation and BIAZA guidelines. I would strongly recommend this course to other zoos and wildlife parks” Jon Merrington, Assistant Zoo Manager – Chessington World of Adventures Resort”.

Of course it is rare in the natural world that a hunter would need to equip him or herself for the diversity of dangerous game that a zoo presents. After all where else would you find Gorilla, Tiger and Lion in the same vicinity! The challenges involved are huge. What calibre and firearm is most suitable? What backstop might be available in a built up highly populated area? Where should you place your shot when you are being charged at close range? However, what is more demanding is that those who are entrusted to dispatch the animals are the zoo keepers themselves, many of whom may not have even picked up a firearm prior to their involvement in the training program.

The expectation that these often young keepers will be able to dispatch an agitated, dangerous animal in a stressful situation, without incurring injury to themselves or the public is immense. 


(Above: Tigers also have been known to escape their enclosures and kill. As was the case at San Fransisco Zoo in December 2007)  

The consultation has proven to be an interesting and comprehensive one, with training being provided to deal with a variety of dangerous animals in a variety of circumstances. None the less at County Deer Stalking (CDS Firearms Training) we have relished the challenge and are now confident that we have compiled the very best course available in the UK.  

Our comprehensive training course consists of an initial intensive two day course followed by regular familiarisation days. It also consists of a 40 page training manual, multiple choice exam and marksmanship training using live firing of suitable weapons.

CDS Firearms training Manual 180

With our Police background and experience of dealing with enclosures, large game and firearms, we have a unique skill set.

If you would like a consultation for your Zoo or Wildlife Park (anywhere in the UK), or would simply like to find out more about CDS Firearms Training for Zoos then please contact our training co-ordinator Peter Jones: Tel: 07789 747709 email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To learn more about what our Zoo Firearms Training Involves please follow this link: zoo-firearms-training

Alternatively if you require dangerous game training for a forthcoming hunting trip, we would be delighted to help. Simply contact us for more details.

To watch a short film in which we discuss Marksmanship techniques and also get to grips with a dangerous game calibre follow this link: youtube (Improve your Marksmanship)



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