Zookeeper Killed While Putting Bug Spray on Rhino

The 33-year-old woman's husband tried to save her
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 12, 2023 5:45 PM CDT
Zookeeper Killed While Putting Bug Spray on Rhino
Rescue helpers of the Red Cross enter the Hellbrunn Zoo in Salzburg, Austria, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023.   (AP Photo)

A rhinoceros attacked a married couple working as zookeepers in Austria on Tuesday, killing the woman and seriously injuring the man as he attempted to save her, authorities said. The attack happened at the Hellbrunn Zoo in the western Austrian city of Salzburg. Zoo director Sabine Grebner told reporters that the 33-year-old woman, a German citizen from Bavaria, was assigned that day to put insect repellent on the rhino's body because they are very sensitive to insect bites. The 30-year-old female rhino, Jeti, attacked the keeper though it was not clear why, Austria's APA news agency cited Grebner as saying. "Maybe there was some kind of irritation," she said, per the AP. "We are deeply upset and shocked."

The woman suffered severe chest trauma, and Salzburg police said she "succumbed to her injuries at the scene of the accident." The other zookeeper, a 34-year-old Austrian citizen who was feeding other animals at the time, was also attacked and fractured his leg when he tried to chase the rhino away from his wife. The names of the two zookeepers were not released in line with Austrian privacy rules. The man, a trained animal keeper, has worked at the zoo since 2008, and his wife, a certified animal keeper, since 2014. Previously, she was employed in Munich, the zoo director said. The zoo director said she was known to be "very careful and thoughtful with the animals, and she had an extremely good sense" when dealing with them.

Grebner added that there had been no previous incidents at the rhino enclosure, which was set up nearly 30 years ago. Jeti, who weighs 1.8 tons, has been at the zoo since 2009. Grebner said the rhino was cooperative and had never been boisterous. She took on the role of an aunt to the young animals and gave birth to a cub herself in 2015. Salzburg Zoo has four rhinos: three females and one bull. "The animals are very cooperative and have been at Salzburg Zoo for a very long time," the zoo director said. She said all of the rhinos respond to handling, come from outside into the rhino house when they are called by their names, and veterinarians can take their blood without anesthesia, APA reported.

(More animal attack stories.)

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