COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A four-year-old cheetah out for a walk with her care team at Columbus Zoo lunged and hurt another keeper.
The keeper had been invited to approach closer when cheetah Isabelle was sitting calmly and purring during a daily walk on her harness, according to a press release by Columbus Zoo.
Liberty Township Fire Department treated the keeper on scene, took them to an area hospital as a precaution, and they’ve since gone home. Zoo officials continue to investigate the incident.
At approximately 9:55 a.m., Thursday, March 11, 2021, two Animal Programs staff members were walking a 4-year-old cheetah, Isabelle, from the Animal Programs cheetah facility in the Heart of Africa to the behind-the-scenes yard across the Zoo’s Jerry Borin Trace service road for her daily exercise. Following standard operating procedures to transport her from one location to the other, Isabelle was harnessed, the release said.
At the same time, a keeper from the Heart of Africa region was also walking down the service road toward the Animal Programs staff and Isabelle.
At this time, Isabelle’s care team had her sit and she was calm and purring. The team invited the keeper to approach closer. When the keeper approached them, Isabelle crouched down and lunged toward the Heart of Africa keeper, who works around giraffes and other hoofstock.
“We believe that, due to normal animal behavior, the scent of these other animals on the keeper triggered a natural instinct in Isabelle, who reacted,” the Columbus Zoo said in their statement.
Zoo team members immediately contacted the Liberty Township Fire Department, who responded quickly and provided treatment onsite and transported the keeper to the hospital for further evaluation out of precaution.
Isabelle is not part of the Zoo’s Animal Ambassador Outreach program. She shares a close bond with her care team and participates in the cheetah run as one of the fastest runners.
This is Isabelle’s first incident and as per the Delaware County General Health District, she will be placed in a 30-day quarantine just to ensure that she does not show signs of illness. At the end of 30-days, she will return to her home in the Heart of Africa.
Isabelle is up to date on her vaccinations.
This incident did not occur in a public area. Due to HIPPA, we cannot release any details about the keeper’s injuries. We can report the keeper was treated and discharged from an area hospital. As per the Zoo’s usual protocol, the incident will be fully evaluated, the release concluded.