Before Haramabe: 10 Other Cases of Humans Venturing into Zoo Exhibits
In 1986, the U.K. zoo was rocked by an incident similar to what happened in Cincinnati on Saturday. According to New York Daily News, 5-year-old Levan Merritt fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Jersey Zoo, losing consciousness during the fall. One of the zoo's silverback male gorillas, Jambo, approached the bleeding and unmoving child. Jambo did not react violently, but instead sat down and guarded Merritt from the other gorillas in the exhibit. The boy eventually gained consciousness and began to cry, scaring off Jambo and offering keepers a chance to safely retrieve the boy.
Two-year-old Maddox Derkosh lost his life in 2012 after falling into the wild African dogs exhibit at the Pennsylvania zoo. The boy's mother was holding the child on top of the exhibit's protective railing when Maddox lunged forward and landed in the enclosure after bouncing off a net meant to collect belongings and trash accidentally dropped into the exhibit, reports CBS News. Several dogs fatally attacked the boy shortly after he fell into the exhibit. Maddox died before help arrived.
At this Chicago zoo, a gorilla once again came to the aid of a vulnerable child. In 1996, a young boy fell into the gorilla exhibit, where he was approached by Binti Jua, a female gorilla, reports CBS Chicago. The primate picked up the boy, cradled him in her arms and carried the child to the exhibit's service door. Zoo keepers stood in wait at the entrance and were able to take the boy from the gorilla without incident and begin medical treatment.
SANTIAGO METROPOLITAN ZOO
Keepers at this Chilean zoo shot and killed two lions to save a man who climbed into the animals' enclosure to commit suicide. On May 22, 2016, the unnamed man climbed the fence of the exhibit, removed his clothes and approached the big cats, reports Fox 6. As the man came in contact with the two lions, keepers made the choice to shoot the male and female animals, a decision they said was both sad and painful. It is believed the intruder was trying to commit suicide based on a note found in his clothing.
In 2009, a woman decided to dive into the polar bear exhibit at this German zoo during the four animals' feeding time. Once in the exhibit, the woman swam out to meet one of the polar bears, who responded to her intrusion by biting her arms and legs, reports The Telegraph. Keepers were able to save the female, who was later revealed to be a teacher and mother, by pushing away the bear that was attacking her and dragging the woman back up the enclosure wall. The intruder sustained serious injuries, but managed to survive the encounter.
In 1999, the body of a 27-year-old man was found on the back of SeaWorld's killer whale Tilikum. Park officials believe the man entered the park at night to play with the famous orca. Since the man was found naked without any serious external injuries, it is believed that Tilikum dragged the man under the water repeatedly, drowning him, reports CNN.
In 1990, Rick Swope clamored into a chimpanzee exhibit to save a drowning chimp. According to The Chicago Tribune, the 33-year-old truck driver, who couldn't stand watching the animal thrash and fight for its life, jumped into the enclosure without a second thought. Swope grabbed the 135-lb. animal and hauled him up the pool's slope and back to land. At no time during the rescue mission did the chimp try to hurt Swope, and thanks to his actions the animal survived. The man was able to get out of the exhibit without injury and was thanked by the zoo for his dangerous and heroic actions.
A visitor to the Canadian zoo caused a frenzy when she decided to jump into the facility's tiger exhibit to retrieve her hat. Video of the incident shows the woman climbing over the safety fence to pick up the lost item. The tiger, who was separated from the woman by another fence, tried to approach her, but was unable to make contact before the woman climbed out of the enclosure.
Gugu the giant panda has a history with trespassers. On multiple occasions, panda fans have slipped into the animal's cage and tried to hug him; on those occasions Gugu has bit the unwanted visitors repeatedly. The most recent incident occurred in 2009, when a man entered the bear's enclosure to pick up a toy his child had dropped. Gugu bit the man on the leg, but was driven off by broom-wielding keepers before he could cause any further damage. This was the third time Gugu had bitten an intruder, according to Reuters.
CLEVELAND METROPARKS ZOO
In 2015, a 2-year-old boy fell into the the cheetah exhibit at the Ohio zoo, reports USA Today. The child's parents were able to retrieve the boy without any injury. The cheetahs in the enclosure mostly ignored the presence of both the boy and the adults. Onlookers say it appeared the child was hung over the railing and accidentally dropped, leading the zoo to seek out a child-endangerment charge against the parents.