12/11/2013 03:33 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

National Zoo Director Says Animal Deaths Are From Resources Being Stretched Too Thin: Report


The director of the National Zoo told the Washington Post that recent issues with exotic animals at the facility, including a spate of recent deaths, was due to resources being "stretched too thin."

The zoo, which is owned by the Smithsonian Institution, has gone through quite a rough patch recently. In the past six months, a pregnant kudu (a type of antelope) and a gazelle have perished at the Washington, D.C., facility. The gazelle died when it became spooked by a nearby zebra attack and ran into a wall, a zoo spokesman said last month. (The zebra had attacked a zoo worker who had apparently violated protocol by entering the animal's compound.)

In addition, a red river hog died at the facility late last year from an infection known as septicemia. Zoo officials said they were unsure if the infection was caused by extreme weight loss, or if the infection contributed to the animal's weight loss.

National Zoo Director Dennis Kelly attributed the incidents to a lack of resources.

“We are spread too thin, is the conclusion that I’ve come to,” Kelly told The Washington Post. “It’s really the whole zoo...as a result of the almost three years now of budget uncertainty and budget cuts.”

A statement on the National Zoo's website called the animals deaths "saddening" and "distressing."

"Managing several hundred species is complex. Our team of professionals cares for thousands of animals, each one with its unique set of requirements and needs," the statement reads, in part.

An internal report investigating some of the animal deaths as well as other issues including the escape of a vulture has led to adjustments with animal care procedures and an increase of standards of communication among zoo departments and staff, the statement adds.

The latest news comes on top of a recent CBS News investigation, which details the complaints of five anonymous National Zoo workers who told the news agency about several issues at the zoo, including overcrowding and mixing of species that led to fights and injuries for some animals.