Update: Child in Critical Condition After Fall into LR Zoo Big Cat Exhibit

Published 10/10 2014 10:56AM

Updated 10/10 2014 06:16PM

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A three-year-old boy is hospitalized in critical condition after falling into the jaguar exhibit at the Little Rock Zoo this morning.

It happened around 10:45 when a family member was holding the child on the railing, police said. The child fell about 15-16 feet according to a police report. He was reportedly injured both in the fall and by both jaguars.

More specific information from a Little Rock Police report says the boy suffered a depressed skull fracture, minor puncture wounds, and extensive scalp lacerations.

One witness reported that the yellow jaguar "Agave" had its mouth around the child's neck.

Another witness said both the black and yellow jaguars bit into the child's clothing and that the black jaguar bit the child on the foot while the yellow jaguar bit into his clothing near his neck.

At that point a water hose spool was thrown at the cats causing them to let go of the child. While the black jaguar moved away the yellow jaguar circled back and bit the child on the rear of his neck.

A zookeeper then reportedly used a fire extinguisher to get the animal away from the child until workers arrived with a ladder. Zoo staff responded immediately, using the ladder to climb down and get the boy out of the exhibit. Within minutes he was in the back of an ambulance and taken to Arkansas Children's Hospital.

“We are treating a child here at Arkansas Children’s Hospital who was injured earlier today at the Little Rock Zoo. The child’s condition is critical. We respect the wishes of the child’s guardian who asked that the child’s name and any additional information not be shared at this time. Thank you for respecting the privacy of this family,” the hospital said this afternoon in an emailed statement.

Zoo officials have declined to comment but the City of Little Rock released the following statement soon after the incident:

A child fell into the jaguar exhibit at the Little Rock Zoo and has sustained injuries. At around 10:45 a.m. Zoo staff arrived at the jaguar exhibit and found that a toddler had fallen into the enclosure. Zoo staff responding at the jaguar exhibit immediately called for help over the radio and were assisted by other staff who a fire extinguisher to keep the cats away from the child. Zoo staff are trained to use fire extinguishers to safely overwhelm potentially dangerous animals if an incident like this were to occur.

Zoo staff were able to successfully keep the cats back while other Zoo staff lowered a ladder into the exhibit. A Zoo staffer then climbed into the exhibit and retrieved the child who was conscious and responding. The child was then handed to the child’s father and both were taken by golf cart to the Zoo’s back gate entrance where the child was placed in an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital.

“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.

The Zoo was briefly on lockdown after the incident, which is still under investigation.

There's no word on the jaguars kept in the exhibit, but we were told they have not been seen in the exhibit since the incident.

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