Pittsburgh zoo calendar features animals that killed tot
Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium officials said they considered scrapping their annual calendar because its March page features the animals that killed a young boy this month.
Zoo leaders decided to send the 2013 calendars to supporters in part because half had been picked up by the time Maddox Derkosh, 2, of Whitehall fell into the African painted dogs exhibit on Nov. 4.
“We wrestled with that one quite a bit,” zoo President Barbara Baker said Monday. “We had the calendars available before the accident occurred.”
Calendars that were mailed later — one sent to the Tribune-Review had a Nov. 20 postmark — included a short letter that thanked recipients for their support, offered the calendar “as a token of our appreciation” and wished supporters “a very happy holiday season and a wonderful new year.”
“Most any public organization would've at least explained in that letter” the reasoning behind sending it despite the tragedy, said Steven Silvers, a public relations and crisis management consultant with Denver-based firm GBSM. “The best option would've been to cancel these things.”
Baker said the zoo considered scrapping the calendars, which were printed several months ago.
“We did discuss it, and we looked at it, but we decided to go forward with it,” Baker said. “African painted dogs are a wonderful endangered species,” and despite the tragedy, “they are animals that we're responsible for taking good care of.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and the child” Baker said.
Relatives could not be reached.
Baker did not know and zoo spokeswoman Tracy Gray would not say how many calendars the zoo sent out or what they cost.
Joanna Doven, a spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who is on the zoo's board of directors, called the inclusion of the dogs in the calendar “unfortunate” but declined further comment because she hadn't talked to Ravenstahl about it.
The calendar, titled The Color of Nature, features the dogs in the spread for March, where four photographs of them surround a description of their coloring and its purpose in the wild.
Their exhibit remains closed. Officials said they would quarantine the animals for 30 days after the death, the first of a visitor in the zoo's history. The dogs are not normally outside during the colder months, Gray said.
She did not say whether the calendar would be sold at the zoo's gift shop, though a $14.95 price is printed on the back cover above a notice that proceeds from its sale would benefit the Pittsburgh Zoo's PPG Conservation & Sustainability Fund.
“This is the kind of thing that an overwhelmed, grieving institution can understandably overlook,” Silvers said. “The problem is that sensitivities are at a very, very high level now.”
On Sunday, 60 volunteers prepared thousands of meals for people who attended a benefit for the Derkosh family in Brentwood Presbyterian Church. About 800 people attended Maddox's Nov. 9 funeral.
“I think they would have gained more appreciation from their members if they'd sent a letter saying that the calendar they printed included (a picture of the dogs) and they decided it would be inappropriate to send it out in light of this month's tragedy,” said Brad Phillips, president of Phillips Media Relations, a New York public relations firm.
Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Comeau’s hat trick leads Penguins; Crosby reaches career points
- Steelers’ backups Archer, Harris ready to run
- Pitt plays best game of the season; routs Kansas State
- Fatal crash closes Flight 93 chapel in Somerset County
- Pregnant woman struck by van in North Side dies; doctors save baby
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger says Saints game is ‘must win’
- Starkey: Rutherford will add when timing’s right
- Pirates notebook: Autographs to come at a cost at PirateFest
- PIT wants non-passengers allowed past security to shop
- Police on hunt for suspects in unrelated Penn Township, Manor cases
- Penguins notebook: Bennett to miss about 2 weeks