By Rachel Epperly
According to Stefan Becket of CBS, on January 1st, 2019 a two-year-old girl was at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida when she fell through the bars and into the rhinoceros exhibit. The child and her family were given access to touch the rhinos in a close-up and hands-on experience while being supervised by the workers. The family was taken down to the exhibit and only steel bars stood between the rhinos and the family. During the time of this close-up experience, the little girl slid through the bars and fell into the cage with the animals. As shown in the picture, the poles at the exhibit are roughly eleven inches apart and can allow things to fit through them. Reporters say that when the girl fell, she made contact with the snout of the rhino and she was taken to the hospital afterwards. After the incident, the child’s mother was also taken to the hospital for unspecified reasons. According to the father, as of right now the family is back home and “doing well” after the event that occured. Until now, the rhino exhibit has been open and visited daily without any incidents for almost a decade. This exhibit at the zoo has now been closed until revised and the zoo can ensure that this could not happen again. The zoo says that the rhinoceros that were involved in the accident will not be hurt or punished.
As we remember back, this has not been the only occurrence of children not being properly supervised at zoos and parks. Back in May of 2016, a western lowland gorilla named Harambe was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a three-year-old boy fell into the gorilla enclosure. David Barnett of Independent News stated that the gorilla grabbed the little boy, and in fear for the boy’s life, a zoo worker grabbed a gun and killed the gorilla. This was one of the major uproars in 2016 and many people expressed how they felt about the killing of Harambe. This is just one example of how through these attacks, many animals have suffered and died for the cost of humans not being where they should be, or not being properly supervised. Many were upset that the animal was killed in spite of having not hurt the child, but this is not just a fluke thing that has happened only a couple of times.
Yet another incident occurred in August of 2016 when a two -year-old boy from Nebraska was killed at a Walt Disney World hotel in Florida. Steve Visser of CNN states that two guests warned Disney employees that there was an alligator near the beach. Another tourist from South Carolina also spotted the alligator from his hotel room and reported it about an hour before the attack. Not only were there those reports, but yet another woman reported that her daughter had seen the alligator about five feet from the shore around 8:15. There were more than three reports to Disney staff of an alligator spotting, but at about 8:30 p.m. the family brought their children to the beach to watch the movie “Zootopia” that was playing there. The children were in water about ankle deep when the attack happened. The report said that there were “no swimming” signs posted at the lagoon, but there were not signs warning about alligators. Even though the children did nothing to provoke the alligator, the family decided that they were not going to sue the Disney resort, and that the attack happened because the predator viewed the child as food. One of the main issues of this occurrence is that none of the families had any indication of the danger that was around them. Since the attack, Disney has posted signs warning those of the dangers that an alligator could be in the waters.
These attacks are not just random things that happen and they occur more often than people realize. Some questions that we are left with are: “Were the children being properly supervised by the workers or their parents?” “Will these zoos and parks make the proper changes to insure the safety of those that decide to take part in these up close experiences?” “How can the zoos and parks make these exhibits safer and more comfortable for the animals and visitors that way this doesn’t happen again?” When taking a small child to an amusement park or a zoo, it comes with risks. Parents and guardians need to be aware of the risks and keep watch on their children if they make the decision to take them to these parks and zoos. Since the incidents are reoccurring, many high tourist sights have taken precautionary measures to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen at their liability.