A 46-year-old zookeeper was taken to hospital in a serious condition in Spain on Sunday after being attacked by a 440-pound gorilla.
The woman, an employee of Madrid Zoo Aquarium, was rushed to San Carlos Clinical Hospital after colleagues entered the enclosure and stopped the attack by letting off fire extinguishers, before experts anesthetized the gorilla with a tranquilizer dart.
A zoo spokesperson, María José Luis, told news agency EFE the gorilla pounced on the keeper after it was surprised while preparing to eat breakfast, El Mundo reported.
“He shook her but without using all the enormous strength of which he is capable with his 200 kilos of weight,” Luis said, detailing the 10:30 a.m. incident.
The animal was identified as a 29-year-old male gorilla named Malabo. The woman had suffered “open fractures” on both of her arms and head injuries, a spokesperson for the Samur-Civil Protection, Madrid’s emergency services, said in a statement.
Footage from the scene was uploaded to Twitter Sunday by Emergencias Madrid, the information office of the city’s emergency services. It confirmed the victim’s age as 46 and said Madrid’s municipal police would now be taking over the investigation.
In a statement posted to its Facebook page Sunday, Madrid Zoo wished the keeper a “speedy recovery,” saying the employee had 19 years of experience.
The statement said the staff member had entered “a bounded area with triple doors” to conduct the breakfast routine, cleaning and preparing of facilities.
The Madrid Zoo said: “The caretaker met Malabo, a 29-year-old male gorilla, who had accessed it. The reasons why the animal was able to access the area are being investigated… the judicial investigation will determine the exact details.”
According to the media release, the area in question did not have an exit to any public areas. It said staff instantly notified local authorities, per emergency protocols.
The statement continued: “The zoo team managed to remove the animal and later, the veterinary team anesthetized the specimen with a tranquilizer dart.
“Note that Malabo has been raised by his caregivers since he was born with a protective behavior towards the group and close to his caregivers. At this time, the caregiver has a reserved prognosis and the first thing is to wish her a speedy recovery. Today, the gorilla facilities will remain closed so both Malabo and the rest of the group are calm.”
It was not immediately clear when the enclosure would re-open to the public. The zoo’s media representatives have been contacted for comment by Newsweek.
A description on the zoo’s website says that the gorilla is a western lowland, a critically endangered species. “When they detect somebody among the weeds who is trying to steal their young, they react aggressively and show their threatening teeth. They are capable of giving their lives to protect those of their kin,” a fact-sheet explains.