WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Visitors to the Smithsonian National Zoo could be turned away at the gates on days when the crowd goes beyond a capacity of 25,000, zoo director Dennis Kelly announced Tuesday.
"We're in a situation now, like at our sister Smithsonian museums, where we're going to have to restrict the flow of visitors into our institution to maintain the highest level of safety," Kelly said.
The announcement was made a day after the stabbing of a 14-year-old and a number of ejections for rowdy behavior during a near-record crowd drawn by the traditional African American Family Day on the Monday after Easter.
The zoo traditionally operates as an open public park free of charge with no restrictions on crowd size.
Currently, park capacity is limited by construction and renovations on the property, Kelly said.
Some park visitors told 9NEWS NOW the zoo should beef up security rather than turning back visitors on over capacity days.
Kelly says security is adequate.
The zoo has a police force of 28 officers, with 4 to 7 individuals on duty depending on crowd size. The zoo can also call on dozens of officers from other Smithsonian museums to beef up security when needed.
The zoo's commitment to the traditional African-American family day, dating back to the 1890's, remains strong, Kelly said.