MELBOURNE, Fla. — A toddler had to be pulled from the rhinoceros exhibit at Melbourne's Brevard Zoo on New Year's Day, Brevard County Fire Rescue said.
According to the zoo, the girl, who is about 2 years old, "stumbled through" the steel poles separating the public space, which is at ground level, and the animals.
The girl was taken to a hospital under a trauma alert status, firefighters said. They said the child's mother was also taken to a hospital to be treated for an arm injury.
"During a Rhino Encounter, a hands-on, educational experience with Brevard Zoo's white rhinoceroses, a young guest entered the rhinoceros yard and was injured," said Elliot Zirulnik, a zoo spokesman. "During the encounter, participants and the rhinoceroses are separated by a series of steel poles. According to witnesses, the child stumbled and fell in between two of the poles and at this point, the snout of at least one of (the) rhinoceroses made contact with the child."
The zoo said the girl was retrieved in a matter of seconds. The girl had a small abrasion on her face, Zirulnik said. She was with her parents and two zookeepers at the time of the incident, he said.
Zirulnik said the family was taken to a hospital by ambulance. He said the child's condition is unknown.
The zoo said the girl did not fall from an elevated public area into the pen.
Zoo officials said Tuesday's incident was the first since the facility began offering the daily experience in 2009.
See how Sanford's Central Florida Zoo conducts its rhino encounters below:
"Our No. 1 concern is the safety and welfare of our guests and our hearts go out to the family," said Keith Winsten, the zoo’s executive director. "Safety has always been of paramount importance to us and we are suspending these encounters until we have thoroughly reviewed our processes and procedures to ensure this cannot happen again."
The zoo said Wednesday in a statement that the "welfare of the rhinos was never compromised and they will not be 'punished' in any way."
Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children released the following statement on behalf of the girl's father:
"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."
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