An investigation has been launched after a Whipsnade zookeeper was seriously injured by a rhino early this morning.
The keeper, a man in his 50s, was found in water in the Asian rhino enclosure at 8.15am.
A MAGPAS air ambulance arrived at Whipsnade Zoo at 9.30am, by which time the keeper had been helped out of the water by members of staff.
The keeper was found in a serious but stable condition and has been taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge by land ambulance.
He later required surgery.
It is currently unknown exactly how the keeper was injured and the Zoological Society of London is investigating the incident.
Dave Tamarro, critical care paramedic for the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “When we arrived it was clear that the patient had received a number of injuries, including injuries to the chest, abdomen and pelvis.
“We stabilised the patient whilst the air ambulance was on its way.”
The zoo opened as normal at 10am, though the rhino enclosure was closed to the public.
A spokesperson for Whipsnade said: “ZSL can confirm that at 8:15am today one of the senior keepers was found injured in the Asian rhino enclosure.
“Procedures were immediately followed to secure the scene and the emergency services were called.
“The keeper was treated at the scene by paramedics and was taken to Addenbrooke’s for further care.
“The incident is being investigated and no further details are available at this time.”
David Field, ZSL zoological director, added: “An investigation into exactly what happened has begun.
“The keeper’s family and ZSL staff are with him at the hospital where he is being well looked after.
“He has come out of surgery and is stable.”
Central Beds Council is also investigating the incident.
A council spokesperson said: “Our officers have been at the scene since this morning and have been working with staff at Whipsnade to ensure that safety procedures are in place and that the zoo remains safe to open to the public and members of staff.
“There are conditions in place under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure the safety of staff and visitors to the zoo, and we will be looking into all the details to find out exactly what happened.
“However while the investigation is ongoing we are unable to comment further.”