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Daily News Archive

Pesticide Use at Zoo Results in Animal Deaths
(from January 30, 2003)

Two red pandas at Washington DC's National Zoo were accidentally poisoned by pesticides which resulted in their deaths on January 11, according to the Washington Post. In a blatant misapplication of pesticides, a contractor buried aluminum phosphide pellets in the red pandas' enclosure even though he was not certified to use the rat poison at the zoo.

The resulting deaths prompted zoo officials to take immediate action to protect the animals from any further chemical exposures. All chemical use in the zoo will now have to be signed off by the zoo's director Lucy H. Spelman. A new "general curator" will be hired to supervise the eight other animal curators to further protect the animals.

Zoo staff also suffered symptoms related to the poison used. Workers who entered the yard where the pellets were buried complained of headaches, nausea and diarrhea. They were treated at a local hospital and later released.

Aluminum phosphide is known to be highly acutely toxic when ingested or inhaled. Symptoms of mild to moderate acute exposure include nausea, abdominal pain, tightness in chest, excitement, restlessness, agitation and chills. Symptoms of more severe exposure include, diarrhea, cyanosis, difficulty breathing, pulmonary edema, respiratory failure, tachycardia (rapid pulse) and hypotension (low blood pressure), dizziness and/or death. For more information about the toxicity of aluminum phosphide, please contact Beyond Pesticides.