MILWAUKEE — The hearts of the staff at the Milwaukee County Zoo are broken.
"The ones that you don't see coming are the hardest ones," said Tim Wild.
Wednesday morning, one of their zebras, four-year-old Stuart died unexpectedly. Tim Wild, who oversees the large mammals at the zoo, says Stuart was running around and playing with one of the impalas inside the enclosure when the unexpected happened.
"He went to cut a corner and lost his footing and slid into the fence post," said Wild.
"That was very sad. We'd love to come and see the animals we love to come to the zoo and zebras are one of my favorites," said one visitor Susie Brooks.
"I saw it on Facebook. I was so bummed," said Emily Damato.
The veterinary team responded immediately to the enclosure after they were alerted by volunteers, but despite their efforts, Stuart died.
Wild says the fencing for Stuart's enclosure meets the standards set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and passed inspection. It's also used by other accredited zoos across the country.
"This type of thing does not happen," said Wild. "This was just a total surprise."
Stuart is the seventh animal to die at the zoo in the last six months, though the first to die following an incident with the fence.
"It's unusual when they come in bunches, but it does happen. If you have a town of a thousand people, some are going to die of old age, some are going to have a weird accident, and some are going to get a disease. It's the same way with the zoo population," said Wild. "Outside of an event like this, our track record for keeping animals for long healthy lives is really excellent."
Wild says he expects the zoo will receive the necropsy report for Stuart, which could explain how he died, within the next couple of days.
"This tragic accident is a heartbreaking loss for the animal care team, and for everyone who cares about the Zoo’s animals. The focus now is on the wellbeing of the impalas and the ostriches who share the habitat," the zoo said in a blog post.
Stuart was born in 2018 and arrived at the Milwaukee County Zoo in 2019. According to the Dublin Zoo, male zebras live on average 20 years.
The zoo said the impalas and ostriches, which share the habitat with the zebras, were removed from the habitat and relocated to the yard and indoors.
The zoo has lost seven animals in the last six months:
3/3/2023 - Gordy the Groundhog
3/22/2023 - Bahatika the Giraffe
Editors note: This article previously stated the fence was electric. That has been corrected as the zoo only said the fence was wire.
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