The zookeeper who was hospitalized last month due to a zebra bite was not following protocol in dealing with a particularly aggressive zebra, an investigation by the National Zoo determined.
On November 18, a zookeeper was taken to the hospital after being bitten several times by Gumu, one of the zoo’s male Grevy Zebras.
Grevy Zebras are considered to be dangerous animals, and zoo policy is to maintain a barrier between such animals and any staff. At the time, it was not clear why that proper protocol had been observed.
In a safety investigation report issued Friday, the National Zoo concluded that the zookeeper’s injuries were due to him not following proper protocol, and the fact that a number of gates that would have separated him from Gumu were left open.
The zookeeper in question sustained multiple bites and kicks from Gumu, and he was left with no memory of the incident. There were no witnesses to the attack, but the assortment of tools in the area suggest that the keeper might have been cleaning the enclosure. The keeper was able to get a radio message out, even though radio transmissions were “spotty” at the time, resulting in the man’s rescue.
“The Zoo acknowledges the heroic efforts of staff and a volunteer keeper aide who managed to rescue the injured keeper by distracting the zebra and shifting the animal to a different secure location,” reads a release on the report. “The Zoo also acknowledges that the injured keeper acted with clarity during the incident, which likely prevented him from receiving further injuries.”
“The zebra involved was checked immediately by the veterinarian team and has been under close observation for any changes in behavior,” the report summary adds. “He has not shown any evidence of illness, and the keeper team reports that he follows his daily schedule and has not exhibited any unusual behavior, even though he is described as an aggressive animal.”
The report recommends retraining staffers and ensuring the current protocols are sufficient.