Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Their exodus marked the beginning of the end for the Las Vegas Zoo and now for the first time former zookeepers are breaking their silence. They spoke exclusively to Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears.
They told Darcy the zoo was plagued with problems and the longer they stayed, the more they realized they couldn't be part of the solution.
Zoo Director Pat Dingle owns the land, the animals, and has the final say on everything. That, according to the former zookeeping staff, was the biggest problem.
They said the animals needed more shade, more food, more enrichment and they needed more help to provide all that, but Dingle wouldn't let them do it. A refusal despite recent directives from the United States Department of Agriculture.
"When you look the USDA in the eye as an animal care manager and agree with them and say I want to do that and then you can't, now you gotta start questioning your integrity. So if you're not doing that then that's when you really have to take a step and make some decisions on do you need to leave and unfortunately all of these things drove me to finally have to exit and I didn't want to," said Jeannie Akins.
Akins said for two of the seven years she was there, she alone was responsible for caring for the zoo's 182 animals. When the other zookeepers were hired, they helped some, but they soon all realized that the zoo needed much more.
Contact 13 has been trying to talk to Dingle since Friday when the zoo closed. He hung up the phone on Darcy and told her not to call back.
Darcy reached out to Dingle's attorney who had no comment.