National Zoo under fire after animal deaths, injuries

National Zoo is under investigation after recent deaths, injuries and escapes. (Source: WJLA/CNN)
National Zoo is under investigation after recent deaths, injuries and escapes. (Source: WJLA/CNN)

(WJLA/CNN) - Recent deaths, injuries and escapes of animals at the National Zoo have many people upset, and they're raising concerns about whether the zoo is properly caring for the animals.

It comes after an internal investigation found some animals could be at risk, which is revealing big problems.

"We never compromise safety and well-being of animals," National Zoo Spokesperson Pamela Baker-Masson said.

And yet animals are dying.

On Wednesday it was an endangered horse, which rammed into a fence inside its barn.

Both a gazelle and antelope like animal broke their necks the same way.

And a hog died from possible malnutrition.

"You don't hear this happening at zoos across the country. It certainly shouldn't be happening here at our National Zoo," President of the Animal Welfare Institute Cathy Liss said.

Last month, a zebra severely injured an animal keeper.

Earlier this year, Rusty the red panda got out, and a vulture escaped its enclosure. Both were recaptured.

But an internal investigation found "animal care and overall organization, accountability, follow up and communication are severely lacking."

Zoo officials said the budget is partly to blame. It does not charge admission, and Congress has cut $2 million over the last few years.

"This is where we look at ourselves very carefully, and we have to review what resources are available," Masson said.

Some animal welfare advocates don't buy it. Pointing out there have been no problems with the zoo's star attractions.

The panda cubs get naming ceremonies. The newest tigers receive around-the-clock attention.

"And the lesser-known species, the less charismatic species aren't getting the attention that they clearly need," Liss said.

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