KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A zebra has died after running into a containment fence at Zoo Knoxville on Saturday, according to a press release.

Zoo Knoxville announced the death of Lydia, a 7-year-old Hartmann’s zebra.

According to Zoo Knoxville, the Zebra is believed to have been startled after an ambulance was called for a medical emergency involving an employee.

The ambulance needed access to the guest pathway in front of the zebra habitat.

“[The zebras] have a flight response to being startled and [Lydia] took off,” said Lisa New, president and CEO.

The zoo’s staff requested that the ambulance come through the pathway without any sirens to the restaurant, where the employee was located.

“Although the zebra are acclimated to truck and car traffic on the service road behind their habitat, they are not accustomed to traffic in that area,” Zoo Knoxville said in the news release.

Lydia Zebra
Lydia Zebra. (Courtesy of Zoo Knoxville)

The zebras were reportedly “reactive to the ambulance and [the staff] immediately began intervention to move them from the area of the habitat in proximity to the first responders.”

Zoo officials said the zebras were calm and the decision was made to keep them in the habitat.

Zoo Knoxville said about eight minutes after the ambulance left the area, Lydia “unexpectedly bolted and collided with the containment fence.”

The staff began emergency animal protocols and moved the other zebras into a corral so the staff could approach Lydia to try and save her.

Despite the response from zoo staff and the veterinarians from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM), Lydia Zebra was pronounced dead at the scene, Zoo Knoxville said.

According to a preliminary necropsy, Lydia died due to trauma to the neck.

“Our top priority is the safety of our guests, employees, and animals. We regularly drill for emergencies to be prepared for every conceivable scenario to ensure positive outcomes. Sadly, despite all our efforts yesterday to care for our people and our animals, we had a tragic accident occur,” said New.

“While we did everything we could to balance the need for emergency treatment for our employee and keeping our zebra stable in the process, we were still dealing with wild animals that reacted as such. As you can imagine, this is a very difficult situation for everyone and we appreciate the compassion our guests showed us as this unfolded yesterday.”

Lydia was one of four mountain zebras in the zoo’s herd. She came to the zoo in April 2018.

Zoo Knoxville added that Wiley, 5-year-old female zebra, collided with a corral fence while being prepped for a veterinary procedure.

“Sometimes in these situations, despite your best preparedness, planning and actions you take at the time, sometimes accidents still occur,” said New.