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Zoo Knoxville loses Hartmann’s mountain zebra
February 10, 2024, 2:36 p.m.

Zoo Knoxville zebras
Zoo Knoxville zebras; image by Zoo Knoxville

KNOXVILLE – Zoo Knoxville is saddened to announce the death of Mosi, a 3-year-old Hartmann’s mountain zebra. Mosi was born at Zoo Knoxville in December, 2020.

Mosi was fatally injured on Wednesday, February 7, while running in an off-exhibit corral with his herd-mate Rosie. Zoo staff and the veterinary team rushed to respond immediately, but Mosi had died instantly. A necropsy performed at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM) confirmed the cause of death was a broken neck.

“Zebra have a very strong flight instinct,” said Dr. Andrew Cushing, UTCVM clinical associate professor and specialist in zoological medicine. “Unfortunately, that instinct can set them in motion before they know where they are going. We try to make their habitat as suitable for the species as possible, including things like using shade cloth over fences, visual barriers, removal of obstacles like poles and trees-anything to remove the potential for this happening. Unfortunately, you can’t anticipate every possible scenario.”

The habitat meets all safety and care criteria of both the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Zoo Knoxville proactively conducted a comprehensive review of the habitat when a female zebra was fatally injured in 2023 after being startled by an emergency response vehicle on zoo grounds. Modifications were made to perimeter barriers to improve visibility for the zebras. The off-exhibit corral where Mosi was injured has a buffer area that is only accessible by staff authorized to be in the area. Zoo Knoxville is currently investigating this incident to determine what could have led up to the event and any action to mitigate future risk.

“We plan our habitats and husbandry routines considering the temperament and constitution of each animal and species,” said Phil Colclough, director of animal care, conservation and education. “Despite all our deliberateness and precaution, a tragic accident can occur in a split-second and it is heartbreaking. This is a very difficult loss and we ask that you please extend your kindness to our staff who cared for Mosi.”

Zoo Knoxville is a nonprofit entity situated on 53 wooded acres just east of downtown Knoxville. Zoo Knoxville features exhibits of wild animals in natural habitats and is world renowned for its efforts in conservation and species survival. Zoo Knoxville is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation, and education. Knoxville’s largest attraction, the zoo is open every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Currently, the zoo is open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Admission and ticket sales stop one-hour before the zoo closes. For more information, please visit

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