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Zoo Found Deficient in Monkey's Death

Corrective Actions Taken After USDA Inspectors Cite Rodent Problems

By D'Vera Cohn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 8, 2005; Page B03

Federal inspectors who visited the National Zoo twice recently have cited deficiencies that contributed to the fatal injury of a monkey and continuing rodent problems, according to documents released yesterday by the zoo.

Zoo officials said they have taken steps to correct the problems. They noted that inspectors found that the zoo has made progress in reducing rodent infestation.

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The inspectors, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, visited the zoo Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 as part of four surprise visits to the animal park last year. Until 2003, the USDA notified the zoo in advance of visits to the Smithsonian facility. But last year, at Congress's behest, the USDA began surprise walkthroughs, as it does at other zoos.

The two recent inspections were done weeks after the death of a 3-year-old macaque at the Think Tank exhibit. Zoo officials said the animal apparently was struck on the forehead Nov. 11 while darting through a closing hydraulic door. In announcing the death, zoo spokeswoman Peper Long said the monkey ran through a door that had been opened to permit another animal to be transferred to a holding area.

It was the first such fatality since the Thank Tank exhibit opened nine years earlier, she said.

Inspectors ordered the zoo to rewrite operating procedures and make preventive repairs to the key-operated door.

Long said yesterday that some solid metal below the door has been replaced with mesh to improve visibility for keepers. Safety guidelines also have been clarified and employees have been reminded to follow them, she said. Other safety measures are being considered, she said.

The USDA inspection report, signed by inspector Gloria McFadden, also cited the presence or signs of rodents in the Small Mammal House and kangaroo exhibit.

"Although significant measures have been taken to eliminate rodent access, rodents are still gaining access in certain animal enclosures," the report said.

Zoo officials said they have taken corrective action but noted that "rodent control will always be an ongoing issue at the National Zoo and any other outdoor animal facility, especially in an urban area."

"We are very pleased that the USDA recognized our progress in pest management, especially in rodent control," Mary R. Tanner, the zoo's deputy director, said in a statement. "The report also noted that we swiftly addressed the problems that may have contributed to the recent accident at the Think Tank."

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