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Columbus Zoo Investigating After Cheetah Attacks Zookeeper

A cheetah at the Columbus Zoo in 2014.
Carissa Andrea Thrush
A cheetah at the Columbus Zoo in 2014.

A 4-year-old cheetah attacked a Columbus zookeeper Thursday, resulting in a trip to the hospital and an investigation by the facility.

Officials at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are investigating an incident between Isabelle, the cheetah, and an unnamed zookeeper who came in contact with the animal during the cheetah's daily walk, in a non-public area of the zoo.

“At this time, Isabelle’s care team had her sit and she was calm and purring. The team invited the keeper to approach closer. When the keeper approached them, Isabelle crouched down and lunged toward the Heart of Africa keeper, who works around giraffes and other hoofstock," the zoo said in a statement.

The staff immediately called the Liberty Township Fire Department, who provided treatment to the zookeeper onsite, before transporting the employee to a nearby hospital for further evaluation “out of caution,” the zoo said.

Officials say this was Isabelle's first incident and they suspect the scent of the other animals on the zookeeper triggered the cheetah's natural instinct to attack. As per zoo protocol, the cheetah will be placed in a 30-day quarantine to ensure she does not show signs of illness.

Officials, citing health privacy laws, did not release the name of the zookeeper or their specific injuries.