Cal-OSHA has launched an investigation after one of the San Diego Zoo's famous giant pandas bit a zookeeper and caused serious injuries.
“A little after 7 a.m. on Sunday morning one of our giant pandas, Bai Yun, pushed on a door in a non-visitor area and the door was not securely latched,” said San Diego Zoo spokesperson Christina Simmons.
The panda went into an area where staff members were working before animal keepers herded her back into her habitat.
“She was out for all of 30 seconds, but during the incident one of our keepers was bitten,” said Simmons.
The worker was taken to a local hospital in serious condition, said Cal-OSHA spokesperson Krisann Chasarik.
Cal-OSHA says it will look at safety procedures at the zoo. The investigation is expected to take several months.
Simmons called it “a very rare incident” and said it was the first time something like this had occurred with their pandas because of strong safety measures.
“There are a number of safety protocols that we follow, doors are kept latched, we have barriers to keep the keepers and the bears separate. In this case a door was not securely latched,” said Simmons. “We will be reinforcing our safety protocol so we don’t have an incident like this in the future.”
Pandas are large bears. Bai Yun weighs about 200 pounds.
“Pandas are very popular, they are very cute, but it would be a misperception to assume that they’re cuddly,” said Simmons. “Bears are known to have volatile tempers and can be aggressive at times and that’s definitely what occurred here.”
The 16-year-old captive-born female has given birth to five cubs, the most recent one in August 2009.
Her first cub, Hua Mei, was the first giant panda cub to be conceived by artificial insemination and the first American-born panda cub to survive to adulthood.