Magazine article Risk Management

Wild Animals

Magazine article Risk Management

Wild Animals

Article excerpt

Elizabeth M. Morrell

Risk managers are often called upon to prepare for the unusual and unexpected, but few situations provide as much potential for unanticipated consequences as placing wild or exotic animals in transit. Moving live animals from one place to another presents risk managers with issues that go beyond the familiar goods-in-transit exposure of inanimate cargo, and those issues can differ considerably by organization or even among specific animals.

In one example, passengers on a 1996 cross-country airline flight found themselves with an unscheduled layover in Utah as an unhappy 490-pound gorilla and his handler left the flight to find another way to complete the long journey from Boston to Seattle. Newspapers across the United States picked up the story of Vip, the gorilla that grounded Delta's Flight 709. After 12 hours in transit from the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, with stops in Cincinnati and Salt Lake City, Vip became 'unruly' and began rattling the bars of his crate loudly, causing the plane's captain to return to the gate. Franklin Park zookeeper Shanna Abeles then began to calm Vip, speaking soothingly to the angry gorilla and offering a banana laced with freshly crushed Valium.

Once Vip was settled and removed from the plane, Ms. Abeles initiated a series of conference calls between Salt Lake City, Boston and Seattle to find out how to complete the trip without further disruption. After spending the night in Salt Lake City, Vip set out the next day by heated truck to Seattle, where he was soon settled securely into his new home at the Woodland Park Zoo. Delta Air Lines issued a Cargo Service Bulletin just days after the incident, reminding personnel of appropriate acceptance and loading protocols for wild or exotic animal shipments. For everyone involved, the incident was a reminder of just how unpredictable animal transport can be.

Among these was John Rath, director of risk management for Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. The Milwaukee County Zoo doesn't appear anywhere in media coverage of Vip's interrupted trip, and Mr. Rath's initial reaction was relief that one of the zoo's animals wasn't involved. That relief faded quickly, however, when Mr. Rath learned that Vip actually does belong to the Milwaukee County Zoo, and had been on long-term loan to the Boston and Seattle zoos. (Such exchanges are common; more than 95 percent of zoo mammals come from other zoos.) Dr. Bruce Beehler, director of the Milwaukee County Zoo, describes the incident as 'very unusual,' and adds that in years of experience he has 'never heard of another flight being grounded because of an animal that was being transported.'

This incident highlights the primary goal for shippers and carriers alike - to minimize stress for every animal in transit to prevent headline stories like the 'grounded gorilla.' For this reason, risk control is emphasized over insurance coverage for exotic animals in shipment, but the appropriate use of property and animal mortality insurance still provides a safety net of risk financing.

Property Coverage

Where a manufacturer might use a standard property policy and inland marine transportation coverage to separately insure their fixed locations and goods in transit, each of the organizations considered in this article use a single property policy to cover both real property and animals in transit.

Companies and municipalities may use different cause-of-loss forms to cover animals under a property policy, depending upon their unique needs and the availability of coverage. For the Milwaukee County Zoo, Mr. Rath selected a policy that covers all risks excluding mortality, while Judy Godfrey, VP-risk management for Irvin Feld and Kenneth Feld Productions, Inc., insures the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus on a named perils property policy written in the London market. The coverage addresses standard property perils, such as lightning and windstorm, along with transportation perils such as upset and overturn, without excluding the animals. …

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