“The 21-month-old also suffered contusions to her chest, back, abdomen and head during the New Year’s Day incident, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report said. Photos from the incident show the baby in a hospital bed with a neck brace and breathing tube. Her right cheek, right hip and navel area are visibly injured.”1
The 29-page report about the incident revealed that the girl fell backward into the enclosure somehow and landed on the ground behind one of the rhino’s feet (she had been petting and brushing the rhinos through the steel bars of the enclosure). In total there were three rhinos, “who were calm during the encounter,”1 and three zebras in the enclosure. (The close-up experience at the zoo is always under the supervision of two zookeepers.)
After the girl fell into the enclosure her father reached in and grabbed her. “As he attempted to pull her back to safety, two female rhinos named Kibibi and Uzuri rammed her repeatedly with their noses and mouths, pressing her into the steel bars.”1 (She hadn’t been in their field of view previous to the father trying to get her out. When that happened they got spooked, backed up, and began pushing on her.)
The toddler was only inside the enclosure for about 10 seconds.
“The girl’s mother suffered a bruised arm trying to save the child, while the father endured scrapes and contusions after one of the rhinos struck his right arm.Their daughter was transported via helicopter to an Orlando hospital and spent five days there recovering from her injuries.”1
Officials at the zoo have suspended the rhino encounter and “all other premium experiences”1pending a safety review and Keith Winsten, the zoo’s executive director said they would probably “add some horizontal pieces”1 to prevent anyone from slipping or squeezing between the vertical poles.
Interviews with the two supervisors at the exhibit found that the parents were holding the child and mindful of her behavior and movements. This was just an accident. (But perhaps more proof that animals don’t belong in cages and zoos. It’s not safe for us or them.) The Brevard Zoo says it has been offering this experience since 2009 without incident.