UPDATE: A three-year-old child is in critical condition after falling into the jaguar exhibit at the Little Rock Zoo and suffering injuries that, according to a police report, appear to include wounds from the cats. What follows is the chronological development of the story today.
From the LRPD this morning:
Responding to the Little Rock zoo on reports of a child that has fallen into the cat exhibit. Injuries are unknown and I am unable to confirm any additional information
If you could follow police radio traffic you might have an idea what’s happening in real time.
UPDATE: KATV reports that the 3-year-old child has been taken to Arkansas Children’s Hospital after falling into the jaguar enclosure at the zoo. No word on whether the child’s injuries were from the fall or the animal. KTHV says the child had been removed from the enclosure by the time a fire rescue team arrived.
UPDATE: The city has now issued this statement:
The City of Little Rock and the Little Rock Zoo issued the following statement about an incident involving a child falling into a jaguar exhibit:
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 with 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.
City Manager Bruce Moore said:
“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.”
No word yet from the Zoo about evaluating the safety of the exhibit in light of today’s accident.
UPDATE: In response to my questions, Zoo spokesman Susan Altrui said:
The enclosure meets all USDA and Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) requirements. The Little Rock Zoo has temporarily closed the exhibit to conduct an internal investigation of this matter.
The police are promising a fuller report later that might give more insight to how the accident occurred. An e-mail from City Manager Bruce Moore, quoted by KARK, says the child fell after being placed on the rail by the child’s grandfather. KARK also quotes a police spokesman as saying some of the child’s injuries might have been caused by an animal.
Arkansas Children’s Hospital issued this statement on the child’s condition:
“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 police said initially in the afternoon:
The report states the child had puncture wounds. It is unknown if the fall or the animal caused the child’s injuries. We are waiting on a medical report
However, the police report on the incident makes injuries by a cat, or cats, appear the likely cause of at least some of the child’s major wounds.
It says that a primate keeper at the zoo, Karen Caster, heard cries for help. She rushed to the cat exhibit and saw a yellow jaguar, called Agave, with its mouth around the neck of a child. Another worker, Paul Caster, used a fire extingisher to keep the cat back and workers with a ladder rescued the child.
The child’s father, Andrew Garber,31, of Maumelle, said he was leaning over the rail to take a photograph when he saw in his peripheral vision his child go over the rail. The child’s grandfather, Norman Ashcraft of Sabetha, Kan., was also standing nearby. The grandfather said the child, who was not identified by police on account of his age, fell about 15 feet into the exhibit. He said he saw a black jaguar and the yellow jaguar bite the child’s clothing. One cat bit the child on the foot area and the yellow jaguar bit into clothing near the child’s neck. The grandfather said he picked up a spool for a water hose and threw it at the cats, which caused them to let go of the child. The black jaguar moved away, but the yellow jaguar circled back and bit the child on the rear of his neck. The child’s father then threw a camera bag that struck the cat and caused it to release the child. Zookeepers then arrived and kept the cat at bay with fire extinguishers.
A doctor told police that the child had extensive scalp lacerations, a depressed skull fracture and minor puncture wounds, but did not think the woulds were life threatening.