Toddler Injured After Falling In Rhino Enclosure At Zoo

By January 03, 2019

A toddler and her family were visiting Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida. In the rhinoceros exhibit, the toddler participated in Rhino Encounter which involves a "hands-on, educational experience" with the zoo's southern white rhinos when the toddler apparently fell between steel poles separating guests from the rhino yard. 

In a statement, the zoo said: "the snout of at least one of rhinoceroses made contact with the child." Spokesman Elliot Zirulnik told CBS affiliate WKMG-TV the snout is defined as the area below the animal's horn.

The toddler's father released a statement, according to FOX 35 Orlando. It read, "Today has been a trying day for our family. We’re thankful to everyone who has reached out with their concerns. Our daughter is in good care at Arnold Palmer Hospital and is doing well. My wife was also treated for her injury and has been released from the hospital. At this time, we ask for privacy as we focus on our daughter’s recovery."

In the Rhino Encounter, participants and the rhinoceroses are separated by a series of steel poles," it added. It is a zookeeper-led program for ages 3 and older, according to the zoo's website.

Zoo spokesman Elliot Zirulnik says the zoo has offered the hands-on experience daily since 2009 without any incidents prior to Tuesday.

"Our number one concern is the safety and welfare of our guests, and our hearts go out to the family," Keith Winsten, the zoos executive director said.

The zoo is suspending the rhino encounter until they have reviewed their processes and procedures.

References:
Darrah, Nicole "Child Injured After Fall Into Rhino Exhibit At Florida Zoo: Officials", Fox News, 2 January 2019
"Child Injured After Entering Rhinoceros Enclosure At Florida Zoo", ABC 7 Chicago, 2 January 2019
Becket, Stefan "Child Injured After Falling Into Rhino Exhibit At Florida Zoo" MSN, 2 January 2019