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Fraternity promises to make things right after vandalism at Utah’s Hogle Zoo

Vandalism of BooLights decorations at the Hoogle Zoo. Photo credit: Hoogle Zoo

SALT LAKE CITY– Hogle Zoo says a University of Utah fraternity is committed “to making things right” after they discovered vandalism on zoo grounds.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Hogle Zoo shared photos of the damage. The photos showed empty beer bottles smashed in the parking lot and destroyed decorations throughout the zoo.

The zoo said the vandalism and disruption reportedly caused by Sigma Chi fraternity members forced them to close early.  

“This was unacceptable behavior and we’re quite disappointed in our neighbors,” said Hogle Zoo in the Facebook post. 

The zoo deleted the post about an hour after sharing it, apparently because of threats made to people. 

Read the original post below:

In an update explaining why they removed the original post, zoo officials wrote

Wow! We love our community and your support – thank you! 

After our post this morning, things got a little heated rather quickly. We were contacted almost immediately by both Sigma Chi and the University and we’ve been impressed by their swift actions. 

We were also contacted by several other fraternities offering to help – thank you! 

After contacting the proper authorities, we made our post in the hopes of discouraging future behavior, but also to find families who may have witnessed something and/or had their evenings cut short. 

We were dismayed that turned to people tracking down students on social media and sending mean messages, even death threats. We regret it took that turn and apologize to anyone inadvertantly implicated – that was never our intention. 

We have a wonderful community, the U, and its students is [sic] a wonderful neighbor. 

Let’s all be kind to one another – it’s been such a crazy year!

Fraternity implicated in zoo vandalism

The zoo says on Saturday night, members of the University of Utah Sigma Chi fraternity purchased 150 tickets to BooLights, selling out all spots for the allotted time zone. The original Facebook post said fraternity members “drank and smashed bottles and cans in our parking lot, broke NUMEROUS Halloween decorations – punching out faces of carved re-useable pumpkins, and broke wooden fencing throughout the Zoo.”

hogle zoo fraternity vandalism

Photo: Hogle Zoo via Facebook, in a post that was later deleted

The post also said a fraternity member “flashed a pocket knife” at an employee, prompting zoo security to close early and upsetting other guests in the zoo. 

Hogle Zoo Manager of Community Relations Erica Hansen says they had to close an hour early, which hurt their bottom line. 

“It’s a loss of train revenue. It’s a loss of carousel revenue. It’s a loss of purchases made at the gift shop. It’s a loss of concessions. And all of that stuff, cumulatively, really adds up for us,” Hansen said. 

The zoo is also worried about scaring people away.

“If there are young families that were here that night and felt unsafe, or they might be a little uneasy to come back,” Hansen said. “We’re sad about that.” 

Not only did the vandalism affect members of the community, but zoo officials say it also scared the animals. 

Hogle Zoo called on people to pass along any photos or videos of the damage they took while visiting the zoo on Saturday or if they come across any on social media.

After contacting police and the fraternity about the vandalism at the zoo, Hogle Zoo officials said the fraternity and the University of Utah promised to make things right. 

The fraternity has also made a post on Facebook saying, “We are extremely disappointed in what has occurred on Saturday night the 17th of October at Utah’s Hogle Zoo. We are doing everything in our power to investigate any misconduct that has taken place. We will make sure that those found responsible will be held accountable for their actions.” 

Hansen says Sigma Chi fraternity has also called an apologized to them. 

“They’ve been very apologetic. They’re moving forward to make amends. Actually, in kind of a good twist, we’ve been contacted by other fraternities and other organizations that want to come up and help,” Hansen said. 

Salt Lake City Police and the University of Utah are investigating what happened.

It’s unclear if the university will take any disciplinary actions against the fraternity.