Toddler survives fall into jaguar enclosure in Arkansas zoo

A 3-year old boy fell into a jaguar pit at the Little Rock, Ark., zoo. He was quickly rescued but is hospitalized with injuries. 

A Little Rock police report says the father and grandfather of a child who fell into a jaguar exhibit at the Little Rock Zoo reported only seeing the child's feet going over the rail.

Witnesses told Fox Channel 16 in Little Rock that they saw the two jaguars bite the boy near his neck and foot. The cats let go of the child when the boy’s father and grandfather threw a camera bag and a water hose spool at the animals.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the child and the family. The safety of our citizens is of paramount value and our staff followed training procedures on rescuing the child and were able to respond quickly and efficiently and work with emergency personnel. A full investigation into the incident is being conducted,” said City Manager Bruce Moore.

Arkansas Children's Hospital said the child was in critical condition after falling into the exhibit about 11 a.m. Friday. ABC News reports that the child was being treated for a head injury from the fall. Hospital spokesman Dan McFadden said in a news release the child's guardian asked that the child's name and other information not be released, although police report says the child is 3.

The report says the father and grandfather threw items at the animals until zoo staff arrived and used a fire extinguisher to keep the jaguars away from the child, who was eventually pulled to safety by a zoo employee after a ladder was lowered into the exhibit.

In 1986, at 5-year old boy fell into the gorilla exhibit at the Jersey Zoo in England. According to eyewitness accounts, the father hid lifted the boy, Levan Merritt, up on the chest high wall so that he could see better. He turn to pick up his other son, and the first boy toppled into the gorilla pit.  

People watched in horror as Nandi a female gorilla and offspring moved towards Levan. Jambo closely followed. As Nandi approached Levan Jambo took charge and placed himself between them as if to say “Don’t touch!” This is thought to have been either Jambo protecting his family and perhaps at the same time satisfying his curiosity before any other members of the troop decided to find out what this human boy was doing in their home. Jambo then sat looking over the boy. Jambo then sat next to Levan and looked up curiously at the crowd as if to say “What is he doing here?”

By now a large crowd had gathered and they thought that Jambo would harm the child. Because Levan was quiet Jambo did not regard the child as a threat.

The boy was rescued by the emergency medical team who climbed into the enclosure and lifted the boy out with a rope. The entire event was captured on video.

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