Florida zoo won’t punish rhinoceros after girl’s injury

Frankie is among four rhinoceroses at Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Fla., arriving in October. A girl fell into the rhinoceros exhibit and was airlifted to an Orlando hospital. Photo courtesy of Brevard Zoo

Jan. 2 (UPI) — A Florida zoo said Wednesday it will not punish the rhinoceroses in a hands-on exhibit a 2-year-old girl “stumbled” into and sustained injuries.

The incident happened Tuesday at the Brevard Zoo’s rhino encounter, in which the animals stand on ground level with visitors and are separated from the public by steel poles.

“This child stumbled through the poles, at which point at least one of the rhinos touched the child with their snout,” the zoo said in a statement.

The snout is below the horn near the rhino’s mouth area. The animals weigh around 5,000 pounds.

Emergency officials transported the girl about 60 miles to Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando. Her mother also sustained injuries and was treated and released from another hospital.

The girl’s father said his daughter was “doing well,” in a statement released Tuesday.

The zoo said “the welfare of the rhinos was never compromised and they will not be ‘punished’ in any way.”

Officials said they suspended the rhino encounters exhibit and other “premium animal experiences” pending a review of the zoo’s safety protocol.

“Our hearts are with the family impacted by this incident and we are committed to being as transparent as possible without disclosing personal information about our guests. We are actively participating in a standard investigation conducted by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,” the zoo said.

The exhibit is home to four southern white rhinos — two males named Frankie and Howard, and two females named Uzuri and Kibibi. Frankie, which weighs 5,300 pounds, arrived in October.

The rhinos share a large yard with three zebras in the zoo’s Expedition Africa section during the day.

Expedition Africa debuted in 2003, nine years after the zoo opened, according to its website.

The zoo attracts more than 400,000 guests annually.


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