A ZOOKEEPER has been taken to hospital in a serious condition after an incident involving a rhino.
The man, who is in his 50s, suffered chest, abdomen and pelvis injuries at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire earlier today.
He was immersed in water during the incident and was taken by ambulance to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge in a serious but stable condition.
A Whipsnade Zoo spokeswoman said: “At approximately 8.15am today one of our keepers was injured at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
“Emergency services were immediately called and the keeper involved was treated by paramedics at the scene and has now been taken to hospital.”
Dave Tamarro, of 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.
“Both trust staff and the Magpas air ambulance crew worked well together to treat the patient, who was then taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital by land ambulance in a serious condition.”
A Magpas air ambulance spokeswoman said the man had been given “enhanced pain relief” at the scene.
She said: “He was helped out of the water by staff at the zoo.
“The Magpas team assessed the patient, who suffered serious injuries, and put measures into place to keep him warm as his body temperature had dropped considerably.”
A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said: “We were called to Whipsnade Zoo at around 8.25am. Our role was to assist the other emergency services.”
Whipsnade features a £1 million Rhinos of Nepal exhibit with indoor heated pools so that the greater one-horned rhinoceros can wallow in muddy water all year round, according to the zoo’s website.
Opened in 2008, it also has a specially-designed watch tower, modelled on those used by conservationists to spot rhino in the field.
Greater one-horned rhinos, also known as Indian rhinos, are described as “armour-plated” giants and are the world’s fifth largest land animal. They can be dangerous to humans when startled.
Males weigh around 4,600lb (2,100 kg) and females around 3,500lb (1,600 kg).
Listed as a vulnerable species, they are mainly found in India’s north-eastern state of Assam and the Terai area of Nepal, where they live in the foothills of the Himalayas.
There are 2,500 one-horned rhinos left in the wild - an increase from as few as 200 at the beginning of the 20th century.
They are good swimmers which spend up to 60% of their day in water and were used by India’s Moghul emperors in staged fights with elephants, which they would often win.
Poachers kill them for their horns to sell for use in traditional medicines and they are also threatened by grassland destruction, encroaching settlements and farmland in their habitat.
A spokeswoman for Whipsnade confirmed that the incident took place in the Asian rhino enclosure, where five one-horned rhinos are kept.
She said: “We are currently investigating what has happened. Family and staff are with the injured man at hospital, where he is being well looked after.”