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Zoo employee dies in camel enclosure; criminal case launched

Criminal proceedings have been initiated regarding the tragedy at Riga Zoo, where an employee died in a camel enclosure on Thursday, December 28. The zoo has also begun an internal investigation.

There is currently no definitive clarity, but the preliminary investigation shows that a common fatal injury occurred during animal maintenance.

White candles burned at the entrance of the camel enclosure and Zoo on Friday in memory of the employee whose life ended on Thursday while on duty. An ambulance was called to the scene on Thursday and the entire area was cordoned off.

“During animal maintenance procedures, an employee was injured, who unfortunately died from the injuries suffered,” said Janis Rudzītis, Chairman of Riga National Zoo Board.

The young man had been working at the Riga Zoo for about two years. His wife describes her husband Jānis in correspondence to Latvian Television as a man who loved animals, and did his work conscientiously and carefully. For now, there is little clarity about the exact circumstances of what happened.

Preliminary information shows that all internal policy and security requirements were not met.

“Prima facie, I can inform you that there has been a coincidence of circumstances, that the employee and the animal in question should not have been so close to each other,” Rudzītis noted.

He refrained from commenting on who would be responsible for it - whether the employee himself had failed to comply with security rules, another employee, or perhaps someone had to oversee it.

The area in question is no longer confined on Friday, zoo staff have given their first testimony to the State Police and say that video cameras do not cover in those particular areas. Therefore, along with State Police officers, it will be necessary to reconstruct the tragic course of events.

"Accurate information needs to be collected from colleagues who were as close and informed as possible there. According to unverified information, some visitors have noticed it - the end of the event. Unfortunately, we have not had the opportunity to contact them at this time," said Rudzītis.

The 14-year-old male camel who attacked the employee has been living in the zoo for more than 12 years.

Separated from the other camels on Friday, his behavior is now being observed.

The State Police informed that criminal proceedings have been initiated regarding what happened, clarification of the circumstances is ongoing, thus the criminal proceedings have not yet been qualified according to any particular article.

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