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Published: Tuesday, 5/2/2006

Peta seeks federal probe of animal deaths at Toledo Zoo

BLADE STAFF

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) today sent a letter officially asking for a federal investigation into the recent deaths and injuries of several hoofed animals at the Toledo Zoo.

The letter to Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer, the eastern regional director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture s animal care unit, urged her to immediately investigate the incidents as violations of the minimum standards of the Animal Welfare Act in terms of the handling of animals and the structural strength of the zoo s facilities.

The animal-rights group cited recent news stories for the request, including a story in The Blade on Sunday about the death Saturday of a 650-pouind, male African bongo antelope. The 2 -year-old male bongo s injuries occurred Friday, after it butted with its horns a low-voltage electrified fence within its enclosure. The panicked bongo, named Jo, then jumped a fence and landed in the rhinoceros enclosure. It was eventually discovered with a broken rear leg and other injuries in the moat in the rhinoceros exhibit, where it was either chased by the rhinos or ran to seek protection.

That incident came just days after the newspaper reported that one impala broke its back and another was seriously injured April 20 while being loaded onto a trailer to be shipped to another zoo. The impala that broke its back had to be euthanized, zoo officials said.

A year ago, a 14-year-old African antelope was euthanized after she apparently ran into a barrier and ultimately broke her pelvis.

In 2001, a giraffe at the Toledo Zoo died of injuries it sustained after it was gored by an antelope.

"The number of deaths and injuries to various hoofstock species in such a short span of time would indicate that the Toledo Zoo has serious problems regarding the housing and handling of these species," Lisa Wathne, a PETA captive exotic animal specialist, wrote in the letter.

Toledo Zoo spokesman Andi Norman said the zoo meets or exceeds not only USDA standards but the American Zoo and Aquarium Association standards for animal care.

"Hoofstock are a difficult species because of their instinct for fight or flight," she said. "It s a risk that you take in dealing with these species, but from our standpoint we work very hard to protect them."

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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