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Rhino at Tokyo zoo may have killed attendant

The rhino that may have attacked and killed his attendant, Junichi Asami, is seen in this undated photograph provided by Tama Zoological Park.

TOKYO -- An attendant at a zoo in the Japanese capital may have been attacked and killed by a rhinoceros under his care, police and zoo officials said.

Junichi Asami, 54, was found lying face-up outside of a rhinoceros cage in an enclosure at the Tama Zoological Park in the western Tokyo city of Hino at round 10:50 a.m. on Aug. 25, and his colleagues called emergency services. According to the Metropolitan Police Department's Hino Police Station, he was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

He had bruises to his left side, which may have been sustained in an attack by a rhinoceros. Police and other sources say the animal in question is male, estimated to be 18 years of age, measuring around 2 meters tall and 4 meters long.

It was also reported that the animal is currently receiving treatment for a skin disease on its foot. Medicine for the condition was said to have been found on the ground near Asami.

Following the incident, Tama Zoological Park was temporarily closed on Aug. 25. It held a press conference that night, where it was revealed Asami was a veteran animal attendant with around 25 years of experience. He had been put in charge of the rhino from April 2018.

The zoo explained that when he had to apply medicine to the animals, he would feed them from outside of the cage to distract them. Although the cage was reportedly locked, the zoo added that there was about 30 centimeters between each bar.

(Japanese original by Kunihiro Iwasaki, Tokyo City News Department)

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