Zebra and fish deaths highlight perils for zoo animals


A zebra was found dead in a shipping crate as a Victorian zoo tried to ferry the creature to another facility.

Zoos Victoria has outlined a series of animal welfare investigations across the last financial year in its annual report, tabled in state parliament on Wednesday.

In one instance, Werribee Open Range Zoo was transferring two female plains zebras to another zoo by ferry.

One of the zebras was loaded into a crate and the other on to a trailer, before the pair were driven to the docks.

The zebras appeared calm during the process but a loud bang was heard from the crate about 90 minutes after their arrival at the docks.

“It is assumed something spooked the zebra, leading to an impact between the zebra and the crate,” the Zoos Victoria annual report report said.

“Staff quickly checked on the zebra and found her lying on her side with a suspected fractured neck.

“The force of the impact resulted in a fatal injury, fractured cervical vertebra.”

The agency said the incident highlighted the risk of transferring zebras, with staff at Werribee and other zoos continuing to share information and refine processes.

At Melbourne Zoo, a northern saratoga fish was discovered dead about 30cm from the water’s edge six, days after being moved to a new habitat following quarantine.

Saratoga are known for jumping out of the water to feed.

“In the absence of reports of water quality issues or aggression with other animals housed in the habitat, veterinary diagnosis was death by misadventure,” Zoos Victoria concluded.

Ten tropical fish were also killed at Melbourne Zoo when the water temperature in a habitat rose too high after a mechanical device failed.