Toddler rushed to hospital after rhino encounter at Florida zoo

Posted at 7:22 PM, Jan 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-01 19:22:59-05

A 2-year-old girl was injured at a Florida zoo during a private rhino encounter experience, zoo officials said.

The toddler and her family were taking part in a close-up experience with white rhinos at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida, on Tuesday when the girl came into contact with the animals.

The family of three were given access to feel and brush the rhinos while supervised by two zookeepers in an area of the zoo where they were separated from the animals only by steel posts. At some point during the experience, the toddler wedged through the posts and got into the rhinos’ yard, said Andrea Hill, the zoo’s marketing and communications director.

The distance between the posts is roughly 11 inches, Hill said.

As two female rhinos approached the toddler, the snout of one of them made contact with the child and she got bumped, Hill said.

The child’s father, who was holding on to her throughout the incident, quickly pulled her out and carried her to the front office before the family was taken to the hospital, the zoo said.

Details about the child’s injuries or condition were not immediately known.

“Our number one 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.”

In a statement, zoo officials said the rhino encounters have been suspended until a safety review is completed.

The experience has been offered daily since 2009 and no other incidents had been reported, the zoo said.

The Brevard Zoo, which houses more than 900 animals, is about 55 miles southeast of Orlando.