Hippopotamus kills cleaner at Lucknow zoo as safety protocol not followed - Hindustan Times
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Hippopotamus kills cleaner at Lucknow zoo as safety protocol on locking cell not followed

By, Lucknow
Dec 19, 2023 12:52 AM IST

Zoo protocol mandates that animals such as hippos are moved to a separate part of the enclosure, usually a cell, at the back when cleaning is done.

A 20-year-old adult hippopotamus named Indira, killed a cleaner, Suraj Dhanuk, 45, at the Wajid Ali Shah Zoological Garden on Monday morning, while its keeper had a narrow escape.

All enclosures in the zoo are cleaned on Mondays, when the zoo is closed for visitors. (File) (Photo by Pratik Chorge/ Hindustan Times)(Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
All enclosures in the zoo are cleaned on Mondays, when the zoo is closed for visitors. (File) (Photo by Pratik Chorge/ Hindustan Times)(Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)

“The unfortunate incident happened at around 10.30am when Dhanuk went inside (the enclosure) for regular cleaning,” said zoo director Aditi Sharma.

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According to details provided by the zoo, Dhanuk, who was a contract employee and a senior keeper entered the hippo’s enclosure. Zoo protocol mandates that animals such as hippos are moved to a separate part of the enclosure, usually a cell, at the back when cleaning is done. The cell is then locked.

This was done on Monday too, but Sharma said the cell “may not have been locked properly”.

Hippos are naturally aggressive, deceptively fast. Their size and sharp (and long) teeth make them formidable — and in Africa, their natural home, they kill more people in the wild than any other land mammal.

All enclosures in the zoo are cleaned on Mondays, when the zoo is closed for visitors.

Dhanuk had been a cleaner at the zoo for the past 10 years. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he was killed by goring, or by a bite, or simply by being trampled. “Visibly, the injury marks could not tell us how he died. A detailed post-mortem examination might tell us more,” said Sharma.

The keeper who was also in the enclosure at the time jumped over the railing and saved himself. He raised an alarm; other staffers arrived and the hippo was herded into the cell; and Dhanuk was rushed to Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee hospital, the main gate of which is 500 metres away from the zoo campus.

“I reached the spot at 10.55am. His was breathing when taken out from the enclosure. It is an unfortunate incident despite all precautions being taken ,” said Sharma. He was declared dead on arrival in the hospital.

“The doctors noted injuries and sent the body to mortuary,” said Dr RK Srivastava of theCivil Hospital.

Police are yet to file a case.

“The body will be handed over to the family after the autopsy is complete,” said Arvind Kumar Verma, assistant commissioner of police, Hazratganj.

The hippopotamus was brought to Lucknow zoo from Allen Forest Zoo in Kanpur in November. Sharma added that the zoo would be conducting a “detailed enquiry”.

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