Woman Attacked by Zoo Jaguar Says She 'Was in the Wrong' for Crossing Barrier to Get a Photo
"We make mistakes, and I learned my lesson," the woman in question, named Leanne, told CBS Evening News of the incident
A woman in her 30s who was attacked by a jaguar at an Arizona zoo on Saturday is speaking out for the first time regarding the incident.
Leanne, who is not sharing her last name, told CBS Evening News in an interview on Monday that she was taking responsibility for her actions after she crossed the jaguar enclosure’s waist-high barrier at Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park, Arizona, in an attempt to get a closer photo.
“I was in the wrong for leaning over the barrier, but I do think that maybe the zoo should look into moving their fence back,” she told CBS correspondent Errol Barnett.
According to a statement from the zoo on Twitter, Leanne approached the zoo’s jaguar exhibit on Saturday and “crossed over the barrier to get a photo” with the big cats. One of the female jaguars attacked her, leaving Leanne with “non-life threatening injuries” to her arm.
Shawn Gilleland of the Rural Metro Fire Department told PEOPLE Leanne was transported to a hospital following the incident, where she was treated for lacerations to her arm and hand. The jaguar in question was removed from the exhibit temporarily pending an investigation for the sake of her privacy and well-being.
Despite her regrets about what transpired, Leanne told CBS Evening News on Monday that “anybody can reach out” in the space between guests’ viewing area and the enclosure.
“I’m not the first, and if they don’t move the fence I’m probably not going to be the last,” she said, adding that the photo op was “not worth” the ordeal she went through. “I never expected [it]. And I feel like we’re all human. We make mistakes, and I learned my lesson.”
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CBS Evening News reports that a similar incident occurred last summer, when a man named Jeff Allan was attacked by the same animal at the same enclosure and needed stitches as a result, he told ABC15.
But the zoo’s director, Mickey Ollson, told CBS Evening News Monday that they maintain the rules are in place for a reason. “When people do not respect the barriers, there’s always a chance that there might be a problem,” he said.
The Humane Society of the United States hopes this incident encourages the Wildlife World Zoo and other zoos to rethink guests experiences that allow close encounters with wild animals.
“When various types of exhibitors promote all sorts of close encounters with wildlife, people get the mistaken idea that wild animals are approachable. Throw in a healthy dose of poor judgement, and incidents like this are bound to happen,” the group’s president and CEO Kitty Block said in a statement provided to PEOPLE. “We urge the zoological community exhibitors to set a higher standard to protect people and to respect wildlife from a safe distance by doing away with public contact opportunities with wildlife of all species.”