Cincinnati Zoo incident involving child, gorilla is not the first breach within US zoos

Children have fallen into exhibits across the US

CINCINNATI -- An incident involving a 3-year-old boy climbing into the gorilla exhibit Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden was the first time there has been a breach of any of the barriers at Gorilla World. 

The zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team fatally shot Harambe, a 400-pound silverback, after he dragged the boy across the moat.

 

It was the first time the team had to kill an animal since the zoo opened in 1875.

Although the incident sparked controversy across the nation, this was not the first time a child had fallen into an exhibit at a zoo accredited by the American Zoo Association, nor was it the first time zoo officials killed an animal. 

Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, Illinois: Aug. 16, 1996 

  •  A 3-year-old boy slipped away from his mother, climbed over a barrier and fell more than 20 feet into the gorilla enclosure at Brookfield Zoo. 
  • A female gorilla named Binti Jua, with her own baby on her back, picked up the unconscious child and cradled him before carrying him to safety.
  • The boy spent four days in the hospital before he made a full recovery. Binti Jua still lives at Brookfield Zoo.  

Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley, Minnesota- Aug. 2, 2006

  • Five meerkats were euthanized at the Minnesota Zoo after a 9-year-old girl stuck her hand into the glass and one of them bit her. 
  • The family of meerkats, including two parents and their offspring, were euthanized following the incident to be tested for rabies.
  • State policy dictates that an animal must be euthanized following an attack if the victim declines vaccinations for rabies.
  • According to zoo officials, the girl scaled a rock wall in order to stick her hand over the glass of the exhibit.
  • All five meerkats tested negative for rabies. 

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Nov. 4, 2012 

  • A 2-year-old boy was mauled to death by wild dogs after he fell from a railing at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
  • Maddox Derkosh fell nearly 11 feet off of a railing that his mother had placed him on so he could look at the African painted dogs, police said.
  • Of the 11 dogs in the exhibit, one would not leave the boy. A police officer shot and killed the animal.
  • The child survived the fall but bled to death after being attacked, the autopsy said.
  • Derkosh’s parents sued the zoo after the accident, and the zoo countersued, claiming the boy’s mother was responsible for his death.  

Little Rock Zoo, Little Rock, Arkansas - Oct. 11, 2014 

  • A 3-year-old boy was attacked by jaguars after he slipped through the railing at the Little Rock Zoo.
  • One cat bit the boy on his neck and another bit him on the foot. Zoo officials used fire extinguishers to scare off the animals so a zoo official could rescue the boy.
  • The child was with his father and grandfather when the accident occurred. His father said he was leaning forward to take a photo when he saw his son slip feet-first under the railing. 

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Cleveland, Ohio - April 12, 2015 

  • A 2-year-old child slipped from his mother’s arms and fell into the cheetah exhibit at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
  • The child’s parents retrieved him from the exhibit before zoo officials realized what had happened. The cheetahs did not attempt to attack anyone involved.
  • The boy’s mother was holding him and one other child when he fell into the enclosure. 

 

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