News & Politics

Zebra Bites National Zoo Staffer (Update: And a Gazelle Died)

The zoo says a gazelle was freaked out from witnessing the bite and ran into a wall.

Not the National Zoo's zebra, but these teeth look like they could do some damage. Photograph via Shutterstock.

An animal keeper at the National Zoo went to the hospital this morning after he got a little too close to a zebra and the stripey equid chomped into him. True to form, the zoo’s first course was to notify the public that the zebra, a ten-year-old male named Gumu, is fine.

The zoo employee, though, is not so lucky. He was conscious and breathing when he was taken to the hospital, but also bleeding quite a bit, zoo spokeswoman Annalisa Meyer said. The zoo did not say from which part of the staffer’s body the zebra took a bite.

Zoo employees also need to determine what led to one of its specimens attacking an animal keeper. “It’s not normal protocol for keepers to be in with the animal,” Meyer said.

UPDATE, 11:45 AM: The wounded animal keeper wasn’t the only victim of the zebra bite. The National Zoo says a one-year-old Dama gazelle named Tony died after witnessing Gumu bite the zoo employee. “Initial necropsy reports showed evidence of fractured vertebrae which tells us he was likely spooked by the incident and ran into a barrier,” the zoo says.

Gumu has been taken off display and is being held in the zoo’s cheetah station. There are two—presumably less bite-y—zebras still on display for zoo visitors.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.