Zoo's attendance dips after child mauled

Jan. 15, 2013 at 4:18 PM

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Attendance at the Pittsburgh Zoo has been noticeably down in the two months since a toddler was mauled to death after falling into an exhibit, officials said.

Zoo officials declined to blame the death of Maddox Derkosh, 2, for the drop in numbers, instead laying it to poor winter weather that has kept visitors at bay, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said Tuesday.

Derkosh visited the zoo Nov. 4 and was standing on an observation deck overlooking an exhibit of endangered African painted dogs when he fell into the exhibit. The dogs swarmed and mauled him to death in front of horrified onlookers.

Attendance in November and December totaled 39,066, the lowest figure for those two months since 2008 and is down 7,000 to 14,800 from the same period in each of the last four years.

"Weather is one of the major factors that affect our attendance, as [with] any outdoor event," zoo spokeswoman Tracy Gray said. "If it's sunny or bright, people will come, but if it's raining or snowing, it's kind of a deterrent."

The zoo closed for two days following the boy's death and has since taken down the painted dogs exhibit, though the animals are still housed at the facility, only outside of public view.

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