Toddler Who Fell Into Rhino Cage at Florida Zoo Suffered Lacerated Liver, Bruised Lung & Contusions
A month after a 2-year-old girl fell into a rhinoceros exhibit during a New Year’s Day visit to a Florida zoo, a new report is detailing the extent of the accident and her injuries — and they’re both much more severe than initially thought.
According to a 29-page document from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission obtained by PEOPLE, the girl — whose name is being kept private — was repeatedly rammed by two female rhinos after falling into the rhino cage at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, the 4,000-lb. animals using their noses and mouths to press her into the park’s steel bars.
Though zoo officials told FFWCC investigations she was only inside the enclosure for about 10 seconds, the toddler suffered extensive injuries according to the report. Those included a lacerated liver, bruised lung, and contusions to her chest, back, abdomen and head.
The FFWCC’s report also contained photos of the little girl in a hospital bed. In the images, she wears a neck brace and has visible bruises on her right cheek, right hip, and navel area. A breathing tube is in her mouth.
She was airlifted to the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando and was there for five days, the report said, as she recovered from her injuries. Her mother suffered a bruise on her arm, and her father had scrapes and contusions, as they pulled their daughter from the rhinos.
The Brevard Zoo’s hands-on Rhino Encounter, which has since been suspended, was advertised on the zoo’s website as an educational experience. In the 20-minute ground-level exhibit, zookeepers supervised as guests touch the feeding white rhinoceros, who are separated only by a series of steel poles.
It’s those poles that the toddler girl fell through and was later pressed upon. According to a statement released by the park back in January, the little girl’s father was kneeling down and holding her to look at the animals when she stumbled backward into the enclosure.
The girl and her parents were the only ones participating in that encounter that day, the FFWCC said in their report. The family is friends with one of the supervisors running the encounter that day.
At the time of her accident, her father made a statement obtained by NBC News saying that his daughter was “doing well” and that his wife had been released. “Today has been a trying day for our family,” he said, asking for privacy.
A picture of the girl’s shoe in the enclosure was later shared on Twitter by a zoo guest.
RELATED: Jacksonville Zoo Celebrating Birth Of Very Expressive Endangered Western Lowland Gorilla
“Our number one concern is the safety and welfare of our guests and our hearts go out to the family,” Keith Winsten, the Zoo’s executive director, said in an online statement in January. “Safety has always been of paramount importance to us and we are suspending these encounters until we have thoroughly reviewed our processes and procedures to ensure this cannot happen again.”
Winsten has since said that the Zoo will “add some horizontal pieces” to the vertical poles to prevent an incident like this happening again, KT-LA reported.