A black bear in a Chinese zoo has bitten off the arm of a 9-year-old boy who tried to feed it through the bars of its cage. The attack occurred on Saturday morning at the zoo inside Pingdingsham Hebin Park in Henan province. A doctor who treated the boy said the entire arm needed to be amputated.
Zhang Chien went to the zoo with his grandfather, who briefly left him alone while he went to buy snacks. The boy wandered off and climbed over a safety rail to get nearer the bear. Some reports say the boy tried to reach into the cage and pat the bear, while others say he tried to feed it, but witnesses said that the bear stuck its head through the bars and seized the boy by his arm. Thus ensued a 10-minute struggle as onlookers tried to beat the bear off of the screaming child as the it savaged his arm, eventually completely tearing off his arm.
Photographs taken by onlookers show the boy standing in stunned silence, covered in blood, with the shattered remains of his right arm hanging at his side . For a moment he was completely alone as other zoo visitors stared and waited for medical staff to arrive. He was not even crying as medics worked over him, trying to stop the flow of blood, obviously in shock.
Eyewitnesses said that there were no zoo staff available to help during the attack. Then it took 20 minutes before they were able to beat the bear back and retrieve the severed limb from the cage. Other zoo visitors took photographs of the arm lying on the floor of the bear’s cage.
Animal attacks in zoos are rare, and usually involve the person attacked crossing barriers to get closer to the animals. In 1994 an Australian tourist was mauled by a polar bear at the zoo in Anchorage, Alaska when she climbed a fence to get a close-up picture. A 2007 mauling by a Royal Bengal tiger resulted in the death of a man at a zoo in Guwahati after he jumped over a protective barrier to take a close-up photo. Another woman was mauled by a polar bear in 2009 at the Berlin zoo, after entering the bears’ enclosure during feeding time. In 2001 a man was killed by the Siberian tiger at the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark after he entered the animals’ den. An 11-year-old boy had his hand torn off by a tiger at a zoo in Brazil on July 31, after his father allowed him to go over a safety barrier to pet it though its cage. On Oct. 11, a 3-year-old boy was mauled by jaguars after he fell into their exhibit at an Arkansas zoo. He reportedly slipped when a family member had him stand on the railing to take a picture.
Zhang Chien’s parents are furious at the zoo. His mother, Ku, was contacted at work and told that her son had been injured. She said she could not believe it when she arrived at he hospital and saw that nothing was left of the child’s arm but a stump. She said that their “entire family has been ruined because of this zoo.” She was highly critical of the safety measures provided, and the lack of staff available to supervise the animals. The zoo has offered to pay $800 of the child’s medical bill, which is $3,200.
By Beth A. Balen