Child injured after entering rhinoceros enclosure at Florida zoo

MELBOURNE, Fla. -- A child was injured after entering a rhinoceros yard at a zoo in Florida on New Year's Day, zoo officials said.

The Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida issued a statement saying the child was transported to a local hospital by ambulance with the family.

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The zoo says the rhino encounter where the child was injured is a hands-on educational experience with the zoo's white rhinoceroses. Participants are separated from the animals by a series of steel poles. Witnesses say the child stumbled and fell in between two of the poles, and that the snout of at least one rhino made contact with the child.

"Our No. 1 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.

The zoo is suspending the rhino encounter until they have reviewed their processes and procedures.

The Brevard Zoo released a statement Wednesday saying. "Early yesterday afternoon, during a Rhino Encounter, a hands-on, educational experience with our white rhinos, a young guest entered the rhino yard. They did not "fall in" from an elevated public area as some have speculated.

Rhino Encounter participants stand on ground level and are separated from the animals by steel poles. This child stumbled through the poles, at which point at least one of the rhinos touched the child with their snout. The child was retrieved in a matter of seconds and transported to a local hospital via ambulance.

The welfare of the rhinos was never compromised and they will not be "punished" in any way.

Rhino Encounters (and all other premium animal experiences) have been suspended until we have thoroughly reviewed our safety protocol to ensure this cannot happen again.

Our hearts are with the family impacted by this incident and we are committed to being as transparent as possible without disclosing personal information about our guests. We are actively participating in a standard investigation conducted by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Updates will be shared when they are available.
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