Rare horse dies at National Zoo

The National Zoo's Przewalski's horse foal, born July 27, was found dead Wednesday at a National Zoo facility in Virginia. (Photo: Doloros Reed, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute)

FRONT ROYAL, Va. (AP/WJLA) - The National Zoo says a Przewalski's horse foal has died at its Conservation Biology Institute.

Keepers found the nearly 4-month-old colt at the barn Wednesday at the Virginia facility where he lived with his mother, another female, and her filly.

"The fence was buoyed out, if you will, and based on the initial necropsy report that he has a broken neck, it's pretty obvious," says National Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson, who adds that she believes it was an accident.

This latest animal death comes as an internal task force released the results of its probe into multiple animal deaths, injuries, and escapes over the past year – specifically in the cheetah conservation station of the zoo.

The investigation was triggered by concerns of a “Friends of the National Zoo” volunteer, who emailed Director Dennis Kelly.

The group found that “animal care and overall organization, accountability, follow-up, and communication are severely lacking in the CC area.”

As a result, the task force recommendations included the following: improve or fix animal enclosures to add space or prevent escape, ensure that incompatible animal types don’t mix, and restore a biologist position vacant for years due to budget contraints.

The last one was done last month, even though zoo management has argued that money is tight and resources are thin. It already charges for carousel rides and has private underwriters for its kids farm, but admission is still free.

"I don't think anything would stop me from coming to the zoo, but if it became very expensive it would definitely keep me from coming as often," says one zoo visitor.

According to the zoo, these horses were once extinct in the wild, but have been reintroduced in Mongolian preserves and recently reclassified from critically endangered to endangered.