Protection for keepers at the Paris Zoo

Case study

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Renovation of the Zoo at Vincennes

After a complete renovation under the management of Bouygues Batiment Ile de France, the Paris Zoological Park, a city zoo situated in the Bois de Vincennes since 1934, reopened its doors to the public in April 2014. For the 180 different species living in the zoo, they had to come up with carefully designed specific habitats for each of the animals, considering the well-being of each animal, making it attractive to the public and ensuring the safety of the zoo's personnel. For this basic part of the project, Alexis Lécu*, Head of the Veterinary Dept., chose to optimize safety and security to the maximum with a Dény Security interlock system.

Conditional routing, the safety/security asset used in the Zoo at Vincennes

Until its closure in 2008, the safety and security of personnel working at the Paris Zoological Park was mainly carried out using a written procedure, under the provisions of an order from March 25, 2004, which set out the working conditions for staff, particularly those looking after species considered dangerous.
The procedure was combined with the installation of a basic mechanical security system based on chains and padlocks.

Ensuring the safety of 50 keepers

At the time of the Park's renovation, France's Natural History Museum was keen to improve the safety and security of its zoological dept. which employed around 60 people, and particularly that of the 50 keepers and head keeper whose job it is to get close to the animals every day, to feed and care for them and assist the veterinarian.

Supported by the Natural History Museum's Health and Safety Committee, Alexis Lécu then set about installing 'conditional routing' based on a purely mechanical system to prevent it being rendered useless during a power cut.

Objectives of the locking system

  • Require the keeper to follow sequenced work practices which allow him/her to check on the animals visually before even having to enter an at-risk area.
  • Eliminate human error by preventing any accidental opening of grates using a captive key system which guarantees access points are locked.

Conditional routing adopted for keepers

Conditional routing was therefore implemented using the same configuration in 7 dangerous animal compounds (pumas, jaguars, wolverines, lynx, wolves, baboons and lions) spread over 4 operating areas (Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians Sector, Aquatic Animals Sector, Large Herbivores Sector, Tropical Sector) with at least one dangerous animal in each sector.

In this way, when there is a changeover of personnel or fewer staff at night, all keepers know the security system well because the same processes and procedures are used in the sector they normally work in.

Securing access to compounds

In the Paris Zoological Park, each building housing dangerous animals is designed along the same principles. These require strict compliance with a hierarchy of operations, performed in a compulsory order and which prevent any parts of the procedure from being skipped.

Keeper security: 1 key = 1 action

Each at-risk operation (entering a compound, parkland, enclosure) is subject to passing through an interchange, and each of these can only be operated with its own key (A, B, C or D). Each key can only be freed for use in the next interchange when the previous one is properly secure. It is therefore impossible to carry out two at-risk operations at the same time.

External interlock

From the outside, a 2-key interchange allows the keeper to free key D allowing entry into the building in order to start work. A red light flashes at this point in order to signal his/her presence at work. Key D then allows the keeper to open either the gate into the secure lobby for wide "vehicle" access to the lobby or enclosure, or the entrance door into the building housing the compounds only after a visual check of the main corridor via a screened hatch. Once the entrance door to the building is open, key D is trapped.

Internal interlock

From the main corridor, interchanges with 4–6 keys allow keepers to either: take the key and enter the enclosure (key A), take the key and enter the inner enclosed compounds (key C), or finally open/close the animal traps (key B). As an example, in order to take key A, all B keys must be in place on the interchange. If not, this means than the B keys are in use in the animal traps and that at least one trap is open.

"Despite the apparent complexity of the device, no healer felt lost in the face of the manipulations. On the contrary, all of them very quickly grasped how the system worked, and it went very well."

Alexis Lécu

Training keepers in using the interlock

Following its installation in 2013, in the context of certification for working with dangerous animals, each keeper underwent more than 10 practical and theory training sessions in the lion enclosure, allowing them to learn how to use the conditional routing system.

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