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Human Error, Not Zebra, Responsible For National Zoo Attack

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One of the National Zoo's three male zebras, looking conspicuously innocent.
Keith Ivey: http://www.flickr.com/photos/17218700@N00/1097065370
One of the National Zoo's three male zebras, looking conspicuously innocent.

The investigation launched after a zookeeper at the National Zoo was attacked and seriously injured by a zebra last month finds human error led to the incident.

The investigation finds the zookeeper broke protocol by leaving open the gates from the zebra's stall to the adjoining yard. This allowed Gumu, an 800-pound male zebra, to enter the same space as the zookeeper and bite him several times.

The investigation also finds that while protocols are in place to care for the animals, the zoo needs to document training for handlers more thoroughly.

Spokesperson Pamela Baker-Masson says the zookeeper who was injured has worked at the zoo for more than 20 years.

"The person injured was a veteran," Baker-Masson says. "You know he's worked and done this job successfully for many years. So he's well-trained, but we don't have is the documentation of the actual training."

Baker-Masson says a staff member and volunteer rescued the zookeeper by distracting the zebra.

"They were able to communicate well with him and get that zebra shifted away and secure so they could get in there very quickly and come to his aid."

The National Zoo is now conducting an internal audit of management protocols.

Earlier this week, the zoo's director suggested that a shortage of resources has stretched staff too thin and may have been at least partially responsible for the attack.

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