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Woman bit feeding rhino at Denver Zoo

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DENVER -- A woman was bit while she was feeding a rhino at the Denver Zoo Wednesday.

The woman was feeding the black rhino called Mshindi during a rhino encounter program when she was bitten on the finger, said zoo spokeswoman Tiffany Barnhart.

The woman had to be taken to the hospital after the incident, which Denver Zoo Vice President for Animal Care Brian Aucone called a "terrible accident."

"We feel horrible for the woman involved," Aucone said. "Mshindi is a gentle animal. We believe this was an accident and that he was not trying to hurt anyone."

“Mshindi has been hand fed safely thousands of times at Denver Zoo. Mshindi’s primary keeper with more than 20 years experience was supervising the program. We are reviewing all the protocols related to the program thoroughly to ensure this never happens again,” added Aucone.

The zoo started offering the rhino experience earlier this year. Guests pay extra for a chance to get close to rhinos and feed one of them.

Barnhart said the program has been suspended indefinitely pending a review of safety procedures.

The zoo will also submit a full report on the incident to its accrediting agency, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, as part of the zoo's efforts to be transparent, Barnhart said.

Black rhinos are critically endangered, Barnhart added. They are found only in scattered pockets of Africa from the Cape to Somalia.