New York City, NY Prospect Park Zoo Mauling, May 1987
TWO ZOO POLAR BEARS KILL, PARTIALLY EAT 11-YEAR-OLD.
New York (AP) -- Two polar bears killed and partially ate an 11-year-old boy who went with two playmates to their lair for a swim, and police shot to death he half-ton animals as they fought over the remains, authorities said.
"It's too gory, too horrendous to describe," said Mayor Edward I. Koch.
"It's awful, awful. The lower part of the body had been chewed up."
Police initially thought the bears had devoured the other playmates, whose clothes were found inside the fenced-in compound Tuesday night at Brooklyn's Prospect Park Zoo. The boys had returned home safely, police said.
Police needed 20 blasts from four shotguns and six rounds from a .38-caliber pistol to kill the animals, one of which had dragged the boy, JUAN PEREZ, into its lair, said police spokesman Officer Peter O'Donnell.
The boy and two other 11-year-olds had decided to take an after-hour dip in the moat inside the fence, he said.
They took off their clothes, but the two lost their nerve, O'Donnell said. PEREZ then threw everyone's clothes intothe cage, and he and a playmate squeezed through the fence to fetch them, O'Donnell said.
At about that point the bears woke up, O'Donnell said. "The first one comes down and does nothing, just looks at the kids. Then the second one comes down and grabs JUAN and drags him up the rocks into the cave."
Officers responding to a report of screams from the cage had to wait for the groundskeeper to open the zoo's bolted gates, police said.
"They saw two bears actually devouring a child," said First Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Condon. He added that the animals were fighting over the body.
Autopsies done immediately on the bears found remains of only one human, said Dr. Elliot Gross, the city's chief medical examiner. The other children had returned home without clothes nd were brought to police by their parents.
An investigation was to begin today by the Parks Department's inspector general to determine how the children got in and how to prevent such occurrences, said city Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern.
The park closes at 5 p.m. and a sweep of the area had found no one inside the zoo, said Gary Zaar, a Parks Department spokesman. Zarr said the children had either sneaked in after hours or had hidden inside.
Children interviewed after the mauling told reporters it is easy to slip into the park after hours.
Stern said the two animals had been at the zoo for about 30 years without incident but that polar bears in general are vicious. The bear compound is ringed by a 10-foot wrought iron fence and a moat up to 2 feet deep.
One of the bear, Teddy, a 33-year-old male, weighted 1,400 pounds; the other, a 32-year-old female named Lucy, weighed 900 pounds, parks officials said.
In 1985, a 24-year-old zookeeper was fatally mauled by two Siberian tigers at the Bronx Zoo after entering their enclosure without looking to ensure that the animals were not there.
In 1982, a polar bear in the Central Park Zoo killed a man who climbed into the cage. The victim had been ejected from the zoo several times previously for trying to climb into animal cages.
The News Frederick Maryland 1987-05-20