A 3-year-old boy was hospitalized after falling into a jaguar enclosure at Arkansas’ Little Rock Zoo Friday morning, officials said. The accident occurred around 10:45 a.m., when the boy’s grandfather placed him onto the railing and the child dropped about 10 feet, according to NBC affiliate KARK. Zoo staff initiated “emergency procedures” and used a fire extinguisher to keep the animals away from the child. A staffer dropped a ladder into the enclosure and pulled the boy to safety. He was conscious and breathing, officials said.
The boy was transported to Arkansas Children’s Hospital by ambulance, and was headed into surgery for a fractured skull, Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore told KARK. The hospital said in a statement that the child is in critical condition. A Little Rock police report cited by KARK said the boy suffered a depressed skull fracture, minor puncture wounds and extensive scalp lacerations. One witness reported that a jaguar had its mouth around the child’s neck, while another witness told police the animals bit the child’s clothes, foot and neck, according to the station.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the child and the family," Moore said in a statement. "The safety of our citizens is of paramount value and our staff followed training procedures on rescuing the child and were able to respond quickly and efficiently and work with emergency personnel. A full investigation into the incident is being conducted.”