German zookeeper killed in rhino attack in Austria

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A veteran zookeeper from Germany was killed on Tuesday by a rhinoceros at the Salzburg Zoo in Austria as she was completing routine tasks, according to the zoo director.

"She was always very careful and very thoughtful and had extremely good instincts with animals," managing director Sabine Grebner said at a press conference on Tuesday.

The experienced keeper, a 33-year-old German woman from the state of Bavaria, was killed early Tuesday morning while trying to apply insect repellent to a 1.8-ton female rhino, Grebner said.

The incident also injured a 34-year-old keeper who rushed to help his colleague. The man was taken to hospital with a broken leg.

The task was part of the animal keeper's daily routine, Grebner said. It is still unclear why the 30-year-old rhino, named Yeti, reacted this way, she added.

All four rhinos at the zoo are used to being cared for and will let themselves be brushed. They enter the enclosure when called and even tolerate blood samples being taken from them without anaesthesia, Grebner said.

Yeti was born in an African animal sanctuary and has lived at Salzburg Zoo since 2009. She is "our most cooperative rhino" and the interaction between Yeti and the keepers was uncomplicated, Grebner said.

The zoo director said that since the rhinoceros is an endangered species, she will not be euthanized after the fatal attack. She also won't be isolated from the other rhinos.

However, the zoo plans to investigate whether the animal may have been upset by an incident in the stable overnight and if safety measures need to be improved.

According to Grebner, no such attack by a rhinoceros had ever occurred in a German-speaking zoo before, but animal rights organization PETA said that there had been fatal accidents involving big cats in Germany and Switzerland in recent years.

PETA called for an end to the keeping of wild animals in zoos.

Yvonne Würz, spokesperson for PETA, said that the "inhumane keeping conditions" inevitably cause animal suffering and often lead to severe behavioural disorders.

  •  German zookeeper
  •  Killed
  •  rhino attack
  •  Austria


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