After suffering a fall at the Little Rock Zoo that critically injured him, a three-year-old boy is hospitalized after being rescued from the jaguar exhibit Friday. At about 10:45 am, a family member held the child on the railing to see into the enclosure when he fell from the railing in with two jaguars.
The 15-foot fall injured the child who then suffered additional injuries from the two large cats. The boy suffered a depressed skull fracture, likely from the fall, but yet to be confirmed. The child also suffered from extensive scalp lacerations and minor puncture wounds, believed to be a result from the jaguars. One witness said that the yellow jaguar named Agave had the child’s neck in its jaws. Other witnesses reported the same thing, and added that the black jaguar had bitten the boy’s foot and both cats were tearing at his clothes.
In an effort to scare the cats into releasing the three-year-old, a spool for a water hose was thrown into the enclosure. Both cats were startled and moved away, however Agave circled back and bit the boy on the back of the neck. Reports state that a Little Rock Zoo staff member moved in with a fire extinguisher to chase the cats away from the boy while a ladder was lowered to allow zoo staff into the pen to rescue the injured child.
Within minutes of the boy being extracted from the jaguar pen, he was being rushed by ambulance to Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The hospital released a statement via email reporting that the child was being treated for injuries suffered at the Little Rock Zoo and that he was in critical condition. Out of respect to the family, the hospital is not releasing the name of the child or additional information at this time.
While the Little Rock Zoo declined to comment, the City of Little Rock did release a statement after the incident occurred. In the statement, the City said that a child fell into a jaguar exhibit and sustained injuries. Zoo staff arrived on scene at approximately 10:45 am and found that a three-year-old had fallen into the exhibit and immediately called for help and that the combined efforts were able to move quickly and remove the child and check on him. After determining that the boy was responsive and conscious, he was handed to his father who then was given a ride with his son in a zoo golf cart to the back gate. That was where the father and his critically injured son were met by an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital.
Bruce Moore, Little Rock City Manager said that Little Rock’s thoughts and prayers are with the child and his family. A full investigation into the incident will be conducted because the safety of the city’s citizens is highly important. Reports indicate that the staff followed their training and the rescue to working with emergency personnel was quick and efficiently done. After the incident, the Little Rock Zoo was put on a lockdown to begin the investigation.
It appears that after the fall that critically injured the child that the jaguars at the Little Rock Zoo were removed from their habitat. There has been no official word on where the jaguars from the exhibit are currently. Reports state that the cats have not been seen in their habitat since the incident.
By Carl Auer