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National Zoo Animals Dying For Funds, Director Says

Red Panda and National Zoo
A red panda at the National Zoo looks out over its snowy enclosure on Dec. 10, 2013. (Image credit: Abby Wood, Smithsonian's National Zoo)

Animals at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., are dying for lack of funds, the zoo director said this week.

Director Dennis Kelly told the Washington Post that three recent animal deaths an a zebra attack on a zookeeper are the consequences of budget cuts that have left the Smithsonian-run zoo short-staffed.

"I can’t spread this staff any more thin than it is now," Kelly told a Post reporter.

In a highly publicized incident in November, a zebra attacked a zookeeper with powerful kicks and bites. The zookeeper was hospitalized.

The zebra attack wasn't the only incident to plague the zoo this year. According to the Post, a female red river hog named Holly died of septicemia, or infection, Dec. 17. She was found to be suffering from malnutrition. A pregnant kudu, a species of antelope, broke its neck running into a paddock wall this summer. A Dama gazelle died the same way, after bolting in panic in response to hearing the zebra attack, zoo officials said at the time.

The zoo has also struggled with several animal escapes, including a red panda that climbed out of its enclosure using overhanging branches. The animals were all recovered safely.

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Stephanie Pappas
Stephanie Pappas

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.