Sea creature sends Oklahoma City zookeeper to hospital

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A zoo keeper at the Oklahoma City Zoo was taken to a nearby hospital after an accident with an animal.

Zoo officials say an employee was clipping the barb of a cownose stingray Wednesday morning when she was stung.

"When you work with wild animals, things can happen, but we have professionals," said Tara Henson, a spokeswoman for the zoo. "But we'll be reviewing process to see if we need to do anything differently and better to ensure that she wouldn't have gotten injured."

The zoo keeper was taken to a nearby hospital but is expected to be okay.

"Any one of us could have some sort of reaction to something like that," said Henson. "We err on the side of caution. She did not want to go to the hospital and we said, 'well you're going to.'"

Clipping an animal's barbs is a routine procedure -- similar to a human clipping his or her fingernails.

According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, cownose rays can be dangerous because they have poisonous spines at the base of their tails.

Experts say the sting is rarely fatal, but it can be very painful.

Wednesday's incident happened out of the water and before the exhibit opened.

Zoo officials say visitors have no need to be afraid of the animals.

"When you're here putting your hands in the water, your family is safe," said Henson. "When you're feeding the sting rays your family is safe. This occurred because the sting ray was out of the water and the zookeeper was positioned just right so it could sting her."

The zoo is reviewing its stingray safety protocols.

Officials say this is the first time a zoo keeper has been stung by a stingray at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

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