Zookeeper Accepts Responsibility for Zebra Attack

A former zookeeper accepts responsibility for the zebra attack at the National Zoo that put him in the hospital for two weeks last year.

A year ago, on Nov. 18, 2013, Wayne Millner left open a gate to the holding yard he was in. A Grey's zebra entered, kicking and biting Millner multiple times.

Millner suffered six bites that ripped his flesh -- taking an upper portion of his ear -- and required several surgeries.

"He bit my ear first, then I put my hand up... and he took out the tendon in my finger," Millner said.

Miller was bleeding, but conscious and talking when he was taken to the George Washington University Hospital.

Though Millner survived, a young gazelle died after being spooked by the commotion. He ran into a barrier in a nearby exhibit and fractured a vertebrae.

The zebra attack was one of the most unusual cases ever handled by medical staff at GW Hospital. Doctors at first thought it was an emergency drill.


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"We have these spot drills to make sure we are prepared, and I thought the guys were pulling one over on me by saying it was a zebra attack," Dr. Babak Sarani said. "I really did."

Adding to the pressure, the American College of Surgeons was reviewing the hospital's trauma team that day.

In the wake of the incident, the zebra, named Gumu, was placed in an off-exhibit holding area, but he is now back on exhibit. The zoo says there have been no more problems.

However, Millner -- who worked at the zoo for 20 years -- has retired.

He said he doesn’t hold any grudges against Gumu: "He just wanted to play."

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