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The animals at the National Zoo may seem like a generally docile bunch, but behind the scenes, they can get pretty rowdy. While baby panda Tai Shan’s nip of a zookeeper in 2008 and a 2003 zebra bite generated awkward press releases, some other animals at the zoo haven’t exactly been model citizens, either. Between April 2007 and October 2013, 38 animal-caused injuries were reported at the National Zoo, according to the findings of a Freedom of Information Act request. (Most happened behind the scenes, away from visitors.) Next time you’re near an octopus tank, proceed with caution.
When an excited cheetah tried to get into its enclosure in 2009, an unlucky zookeeper found himself in its way. The cheetah ran him over, dealing out claw marks on his face and back.
Slime Time A cottonmouth snake’s attempt to bite its own tail turned ugly in 2011, when the snake’s venom splashed into a keeper’s eye. Similarly, a Japanese giant salamander exposed employees to both toxins and “an exceptional amount of slime.”
Dangers lurks in the water, too, where octopi don’t like losing their toys. After a volunteer tried to take an item out of an octopus’s cage in 2009, the feisty cephalopod wrapped its arms around her and attacked with its beak.
Sea Lion’s Roar
Zoo staff learned not to get between (or even close to) a sea lion and its food in December 2012, when one reached for a fish and scratched a keeper in the process. Two months earlier, one sea lion, Summer, bit a keeper on the thigh, then jumped back in the water.
Illustrations by Carey Jordan