The National Zoo is dealing with some bad news on a day that was meant to celebrate the public debut of two of its youngest residents. Zoo officials say a biting incident involving a zebra and a keeper at the zoo likely led to the death of a young gazelle, and sent the zookeeper into surgery.
The keeper was bitten multiple times by a 10-year-old zebra named Gumu during an encounter in the animal's enclosure at 8:45 Monday morning.
Spokesperson Annalisa Meyer says the keeper was bleeding, but conscious and talking when he was taken to the hospital.
The keeper has worked at the National Zoo for 20 years, and was undergoing surgery Monday afternoon.
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Meyer says it's not usual protocol for a keeper to be inside the enclosure with the animals, so zoo officials are investigating what happened.
During that incident, a 1-year-old Dama gazelle named Tony died after he ran into a barrier. The zoo says it appears he was spooked and fractured a vertebrae.
The zebra, Gumu, has been placed in an off-exhibit holding area. The zoo says its remaining zebras, 5-year-old Moyo and Domo, are still on exhibit.
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Grevy's zebras are an endangered species native to northern Kenya and eastern and southern Ethiopia, according to the National Zoo's website. Grevy's zebras can grow to be nine feet long and five and a half feet tall. They can weigh up to 990 pounds.
The incident happened the day that the zoo's Sumatran tiger cubs made their public debut.