Hippo bites Denver zookeeper
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” A veteran worker at the Denver Zoo suffered a hand puncture today when a hippopotamus chomped down during routine dental training.
The woman keeper was bitten about 9:45 a.m. in the outdoor hippo exhibit as she and colleagues were doing desensitizing training on Mahali, a 5-year-old male, to make dental work more comfortable for the hippo.
“Mahali was doing this training where we ask him to hold his mouth open and while he holds his mouth open another keeper will tap on the teeth or do something to kind of desensitize the animal,” said zoo spokeswoman Ana Bowie.
The training helps condition the animal “so he’s more comfortable having hands or any dental tool in his mouth,” she said.
“For unknown reasons, Mahali decided to close his mouth while one of our keepers had her left hand in his mouth,” Bowie added.
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Fortunately a smaller tooth ” not a large tusk ” inflicted the injury, because the keeper’s hand was in front of Mahali’s mouth, she said.
The 16-year veteran keeper quickly freed her hand after the puncture wound below the pinkie and ring finger on her left hand, she said.
“He closed his mouth. She literally popped him on the side of his nose … and he opened his mouth right up,” Bowie said.
“She walked away and we kept pressure on (the wound),” the spokeswoman said.
The alert keeper just wanted colleagues to drive her to the hospital, Bowie said. But workers called 911 and had paramedics transport her by ambulance.
Later in the morning, Mahali was dozing in the sand, while his dad, Bert, was partially submerged in the pond.
Bowie said zoo officials will review the accident to see if there’s a way to improve procedures.
Mahali is the brother of Hazina, a female hippo that died in October after her nearly 29-hour ride to her new home at the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada.
The death was deemed “an accident that no one could have reasonably foreseen,” an independent veterinarian’s report later concluded.