3-year-old falls into jaguar exhibit at zoo; dad fends off cats

A 3-year-old boy has been upgraded from critical condition after falling into the jaguar exhibit at the Little Rock Zoo on Friday.

The Arkansas Children’s Hospital updated the boy’s status this morning, saying the toddler is “stable and is expected to improve,” according to KTHV.

The child fell 15-16 feet into the jaguar exhibit at around 10:45 Friday morning and was being treated for a skull fracture, scalp lacerations, and minor puncture wounds.

The Little Rock Police Department was unable to tell KTHV whether the puncture wounds were the result of a bite from one of the jaguars or had been sustained in the fall, but witnesses reported seeing one of the cats bite the boy’s neck.

jaguar smallThe boy’s father and grandfather both reported seeing the boy fall into the jaguar pit out of the corner of their eyes. After running for help, the boy’s father threw things at the cats to force them away from the fallen toddler; both cats initially ran off, but one circled back and took the child’s neck into its mouth, the father reported.

Zoo workers quickly arrived and kept the animals at bay with a fire extinguisher while another lowered a ladder into the exhibit, climbed down, and rescued the boy.

Zoo staff are trained to use fire extinguishers in case of incidents like this, Little Rock Zoo spokesperson Susan Altrui said in a statement released by the City of Little Rock.

The name of the child and his family were withheld by the hospital at the request of the child’s guardian.

Little Rock Zoo was inspected just over two years ago by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and accredited for five years, according to AZA spokesman Rob Vernon.

The USDA also inspects the zoo twice a year and has not found a violation since last October, Tanya Espinosa of the USDA told KTHV.

Little Rock city manager Bruce Moore promised a full investigation, but said that zoo staff “followed training procedures.”

The zoo remains open, according to its website.

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