The animal keeper at the National Zoo who was attacked by Ling-Ling, the zoo's female giant panda, was "doing fine" at his home yesterday and is "ready to go back to work," his family said.
Edwin Jacobs, 52, was attacked by the prized panda Sunday afternoon when he entered the animal's outdoor cage to check her whereabouts, zoo officials said.
Jacobs was treated for ankle, chest, back and arm injuries at George Washington University Medical Center and released Sunday night.
Despite the attack, Jacobs, a 20-year zoo employe who has been the chief panda keeper for six years, has not lost his affection for the cuddly-looking but ferocious animals, according to his son-in-law, John McCoy, who said that Jacobs was out of bed and walking around yesterday.
Robert Hoage, a spokesman for the zoo, said that it is "unusual" for a keeper to go into an animal's cage when the animal is there.
But, he said, Jacobs became concerned when he could not see Ling-Ling from outside the pen and, "being a loyal and dedicated panda keeper . . . he was seeking to get a sighting on her."
"That's what prompted his going into the yard," Hoage explained.
In an interview soon after being released from the hospital, Jacobs said that he had opened a sliding gate to the outside panda yard and stepped in just far enough to see that the panda was in a corner of the yard about 30 feet away, apparently sleeping.
But in the few seconds that it took him to pick up a stray piece of bamboo and turn to leave, he said, the 250-pound panda growled and sprang to the attack, swiping him with a paw.
"Then she had me down . . . then grabbed my right leg with her mouth," he said. "Then I hollered for help, and she was grabbing me and trying to bite me."
All he could think of, Jacobs said, was "getting her the hell away from me."
Jacobs said that when he got up to flee he found one of his shoes soaked with blood, and scratch marks on his left shoulder.
His right leg bore a deep laceration where he evidently had been bitten.
A hospital spokeswoman said that Ling-Ling apparently had "gnawed" on one of Jacob's ankles and parts of his chest and back.
Yesterday, Hoage said that the attack occurred "about two steps" into the yard.
Hoage said that Jacobs "fought her off his back and maneuvered her into a shift cage," which is a small enclosed area between the indoor and outdoor pens.
Jacobs then slammed the heavy wire door to the cage and held it shut for about four minutes until the assistant panda keeper arrived and locked it, Hoage said.
He said that Hsing-Hsing, Ling-Ling's male counterpart, was in a separate cage during the attack because the two animals are allowed together only during mating season.
The panda house, which was closed to the public after the incident, was reopened yesterday and Ling-Ling was outside on display during her regular 11 a.m. feeding hour, Hoage said.
The zoo is closed Christmas Day.
The two giant pandas, a gift from the People's Republic of China, were presented to the zoo in 1972.
Despite Ling-Ling's legendary reluctance, their tumltuous mating rituals have produced two offspring. Neither cub survived, however.