Ohio gorilla fall reminiscent of Brookfield Zoo accident 20 years ago

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A 3-year-old boy's breach of a gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo, leading authorities to fatally shoot the gorilla to protect the child, has focused attention on zoo enclosures and security.

Incidents of humans entering enclosures or animals escaping are rare, but can have tragic outcomes.

In August of 1996 in an extremely similar incident, a 3-year-old boy climbed a 3-foot railing and fell 18 feet onto concrete in the primate exhibit at west suburban Brookfield Zoo.

The boy was picked up by an 8-year-old motherly gorilla, who carried him in her arms to a gate where zookeepers could get him. Keepers sprayed water at other gorillas in the exhibit to keep them away from the boy, who suffered only minor head injuries and scrapes.

It was just one of several zoo accidents over the last 30 years.

August 1986: A 5-year-old boy lifted up to a wall by his father for a better view of some gorillas falls 20 feet into a pit at a British zoo on the English Channel island of Jersey, suffering a broken arm and head injuries. The gorillas crowd in to watch as one, their patriarch, strokes the boy, who regains consciousness and cries out in fear, scaring away the gorillas. Rescuers then haul him up on a stretcher.

April 1994: An 8-year-old boy wanders into an off-limits area and is attacked when a cheetah scales a fence of a holding pen at the zoo in Jackson, Mississippi, nipping and scratching the child before taking off with his baseball cap. The boy suffers cuts and bruises. The cat is sedated by zookeepers within minutes.

September 2003: An adolescent, 300-pound male gorilla named Little Joe escapes his enclosure at Franklin Park Zoo in Boston for a second time, injures a young woman and 2-year-old child and roams around the zoo and city streets for nearly two hours before being sedated with tranquilizer darts and recaptured. The girl's grandmother says the gorilla threw the child to the ground.

December 2007: A Siberian tiger escapes from its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo - apparently by climbing or leaping from its enclosure- then fatally mauls a 17-year-old boy, injures two of his friends, and is shot to death by police on Christmas Day. Police say the attack was partly triggered by the victims provoking the animal.

November 2012: A 2-year-old boy is mauled and dies after lunging from his mother's grasp and falling about 10 feet from atop a wooden railing into an exhibit of African painted dogs at the Pittsburgh zoo. He bounces off a net meant to catch falling debris and trash, then into the exhibit. Some of the attacking dogs are called or drawn away, but police shoot one that's especially aggressive. The boy's family sues the zoo and doesn't disclose details of the resulting settlement.

October 2014: A 3-year-old boy goes over a railing, falls about 15 feet into a jaguar exhibit at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas and is bitten by two of the cats on the neck and foot. The child's father throws objects at the jaguars, and employees use fire extinguishers to further deter them until a worker with a ladder pulls the boy to safety. He is critically hurt but survives.

April 2015: A 2-year-old boy falls about 10 feet into a cheetah exhibit at the Cleveland zoo after his mother dangles him over a railing. The cheetahs don't approach, and his parents jump in and pull the boy to safety. He is treated for bruises.