Young zebra marks 6th animal to die this year at the Milwaukee County Zoo, officials reveal cause of death

NOW: Young zebra marks 6th animal to die this year at the Milwaukee County Zoo, officials reveal cause of death

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- For the past several years, visitors at the Milwaukee County Zoo have been able to watch impalas, ostriches, and zebras inside of the Impala Plains enclosure.

But as of early Wednesday morning, that may not be possible anymore.

Zoo officials told CBS 58's Ellie Nakamoto-White that Stuart, a 4-year-old zebra, was happily chasing the other animals around, when he turned a corner too fast, slipped and collided with one of the surrounding posts.

"He was out in front of the rest of the animals out there when he slid," said Tom Wild, the zoo's curator of large animals. "He was deceased when we got there."

Despite immediate veterinary assistance, Stuart couldn't be saved.

It was a tragic morning for staff and other volunteers, who quickly began ushering the impalas and ostriches away for safety before tending to the zebra.

“They’re taking this one kind of hard. Anytime you get a surprise event like this, it’s pretty hard," Wild said. 

Wild confirmed that the surrounding fencing is not electric, that it is used by other accredited zoos nationwide, and that everything is up to the standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. 

The United States Department of Agriculture reported "no non-compliant items identified during this inspection" during their latest report from mid-March.

According to a USDA spokesperson, they are aware of the incident and "are looking into it."

“When we opened this exhibit five years ago, all this thought goes into the design, what kind of barriers match up the species you want to put in there," Wild said. “We try to follow standards, follow experiences, look at other zoos, and we’ve come up with the most appropriate things that we can for whatever species we’re trying to house.”

Now, staff are planning on adjusting those designs to prevent future accidents, noting that Wednesday's incident has never happened before.

"We’ll definitely revisit everything after an accident like this, and kind of take a look at what happened," Wild said. "Is there something we can do to avoid it happening again?”

Stuart is described as "pretty friendly" and an animal who loved treats.

"Definitely a young, curious, kind of attitude," Wild noted. 

Zebras typically live until their mid-20s or 30s. His sudden death now leaves only one zebra left at the zoo.

This also marks the sixth animal to die at the zoo since the start of 2023. 

In February, officials reported that Stella the jaguar was euthanized for health issues. 

In March, Gordy the Groundhog died just weeks after predicting six more weeks of winter. 

His death was followed by Bahatika, a giraffe who died of old age, and Rahna, a giraffe who was euthanized

Most recently in April, Sanchi the camel was euthanized after experiencing health problems related to old age

Officials said that they are working on their rhino exhibit which is set to open within the next couple of years. When that is ready, staff may consider adding more zebras to the zoo. 

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