Sources have come forward alleging animal care problems at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., one of the country's top attractions that draws 2 million visitors each year. A CBS News investigation reveals complaints surrounding the deaths of several animals and alleged mistreatment of others:
But a CBS News investigation has learned that behind the scenes, there are insider allegations of mismanagement involving animal care. Five sources with more than 35 years' combined experience at the National Zoo have raised concerns to CBS News about recent animal injuries, deaths and escapes.
"I call it 'fetch and pray.' You get the animals and then you pray that the project will work out," said animal biologist and ethicist Marc Bekoff, who reviewed the zoo's complaints for CBS. Bekoff was also a reviewer of a 2005 National Academy of Sciences investigation of the zoo that found "systemic problems at the highest levels."
The investigation cites several examples of animal mistreatment at the zoo, including a pair of hornbill birds that were kept in a shack for seven months. It also delves into the death of a Dama gazelle, which died after it was spooked after a zebra attacked a veteran zookeeper -- a notable incident that happened last month but still remains shrouded in mystery. CBS also noted the similar death of a pregnant kudu, which broke its neck and died after being spooked and running into a barriers in its confined space. The investigation also touches on a malnourished red river hog that died of an infection, several animal escapes and animals that became aggressive when held in the same enclosure as other species.