Man Injured By Rhino At Whipsnade Zoo

19 November 2014, 17:24 | Updated: 20 November 2014, 09:14

A man has been injured by a rhino this morning at Whipsnade zoo.

The East of England Ambulance service have told Heart they received a call at 8.18am to Whipsnade Zoo to an incident between a male patient in his 50s and a rhino. 

A spokesman said: "We sent a rapid response vehicle, an ambulance officer, an ambulance and the Magpas air ambulance. The patient was taken by land ambulance to Addenbrookes Hospital in a serious condition.

Heart's been told a member of staff, a keeper who was injured not a member of public.

Dave Tamarro, critical care paramedic for the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: "When we arrived it was clear that the patient had received a number of injuries, including injuries to the chest, abdomen and pelvis.  

We stabilised the patient whilst the air ambulance was on its way. Both Trust staff and the MAGPAS air ambulance crew worked well together to treat the patient, who was then taken to Addenbrookes hospital by land ambulance in a  serious condition."

The Health and Safety Executive and Central Beds Council are investigating.

Update 1500

In a statement from ZSL Whipsnade a spokesman said: "ZSL has confirmed a senior keeper was involved in an incident with a rhinoceros at 815 this morning in our Asian Rhino Enclosure.

Well rehearsed procedures were immediately put in place and emergency services were called.

Paramedics at the scene were able to give medical assistance to the man.

An investigation has begun.

David Field, ZSL Director at Whipsnade said '(the man's) family and ZSL staff are with him at hospital and he is being well looked after'.

Update 1700

David Field, Zoological Director at the Zoological Society of London(ZSL), last night(Weds) said the senior keeper was out of surgery.

He said: "I'm pleased to say that he's now out of surgery and the doctors have described his condition as stable.

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesman said: "I can confirm that we are investigating the incident which took place at Whipsnade this morning.

Our officers have been at the scene since this morning and have been working with staff at Whipsnade to ensure that safety procedures are in place and that the zoo remains safe to open to the public and members of staff.

There are conditions in place under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure the safety of staff and visitors to the zoo, and we will be looking into all the details to find out exactly what happened.

However, while the investigation is ongoing we are unable to comment further."

Whipsnade and the Rhinos

The zoo features a £1m Rhinos of Nepal exhibit with indoor heated pools so that the greater one-horned rhinoceros can wallow in muddy water all year round, according to the zoo's website.

Opened in 2008, it also has a specially-designed watch tower, modelled on those used by conservationists to spot rhino in the field.

Greater one-horned rhinos, also known as Indian rhinos, are described as "armour-plated" giants and are the world's fifth largest land animal. They can be dangerous to humans when startled.

Males weigh around 4,600lb (2,100 kg) and females around 3,500lb (1,600 kg).

Listed as a vulnerable species, they are mainly found in India's north-eastern state of Assam and the Terai area of Nepal, where they live in the foothills of the Himalayas.

There are 2,500 one-horned rhinos left in the wild - an increase from as few as 200 at the beginning of the 20th century.

They are good swimmers which spend up to 60% of their day in water and were used by India's Moghul emperors in staged fights with elephants, which they would often win.

Poachers kill them for their horns to sell for use in traditional medicines and they are also threatened by grassland destruction, encroaching settlements and farmland in their habitat.