Zoo accidents are never fun to read about. Moreso when the animals (or humans) are injured. Such an accident has unfortunately occurred at the Hellbrunn Zoo in the Austrian city of Salzburg. A zookeeper was killed by one of the resident rhinos, as she sprayed it down with insect repellent. The keeper’s husband attempted to rescue her, but was injured himself. The 30-year-old rhino named Jeti was known to be gentle of temperament. Jeti is also something of a surrogate aunt to a number of the other animals.
An investigation is underway to try and discern what caused Jeti’s behavior. Rhinos are highly susceptible to insect bites, and so the spraying of insect repellent is a necessity. There’s the speculation that there may have been some form of irritation that set Jeti off. Something as simple as the wind shifting and getting repellent in her eye may have been enough to cause her to react. The keeper wasn’t at all inexperienced with the animals, either. A certified handler since 2014, she knew her way around them. According to Zoo director Sabine Grebner, she was “very careful and thoughtful with the animals, and she had an extremely good sense” of their behaviors.
Purely An Accident
Sadly, the keeper suffered severe trauma to her chest and succumbed to her injuries at the site of the accident. Attempts to resuscitate her failed. Her husband, who was feeding animals nearby, also suffered. In the attempt to save her from Jeti, he sustained a fractured leg and is recuperating in the hospital.
To date, there has never been an incident like this within this enclosure. For 30 years, the rhinos have lived a docile and cooperative existence. Our hearts go out to the keeper’s husband, and to Jeti as well. Who only reacted as an animal might when startled or in pain. The zoo will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday while the accident is being investigated.