The incident took place on Thursday when two staff members were walking a 4-year-old cheetah, Isabelle, on her daily exercise. At the same time, a keeper from the Heart of Africa region was also walking down the service road toward Isabelle. According to her handlers, she was calm, sitting, and purring. She was also wearing a harness per zoo regulations. As a result, they invited the other keeper to approach her.
When the zookeeper got close, Isabelle crouched down and lunged toward the keeper. The injured employee reportedly works around giraffes and other hoofstock. The zoo believes that the scent prompted Isabelle to act instinctively.
“You can train a wild animal, but it is impossible to tame them and it just can’t be done, instinct is so powerful,” Vice President of Animal Programs at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Suzi Rapp, explained. “They are a wild animal and we treat them as that.”
Fortunately, the attack wasn’t deadly. The injured zookeeper was treated at the scene by the Liberty Township Fire Department. They were then transported to a nearby hospital for further evaluation out of precaution. After being treated, they were discharged. Also, Isabelle is up-to-date on her vaccines.
This is the first incident Isabelle has had during her time at the zoo. She will be placed in a 30-day quarantine to assure that she’s not showing any signs of illness. She’ll then be returned to her home in the zoo’s Heart of Africa region.