MELBOURNE, Fla. — Update 7:30 p.m. EST Jan. 7: A Florida girl who was injured in the rhinoceros exhibit at the Brevard Zoo has been released from the hospital.
A representative from the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children confirmed that the patient was released Monday after falling into the exhibit on New Year's Day.
According to the zoo, the girl “stumbled through steel poles separating the public space from the animals.”
The girl was immediately transported to the hospital under trauma alert status, according to firefighters. The girl's mother was also transported for a minor arm injury.
The exhibit remains closed to the public.
The family has yet to release a statement on the incident.
Update 5:00 p.m. EST Jan. 2: The Brevard Zoo officials said in a statement Wednesday morning that the rhinos in the exhibit where a toddler was injured Tuesday will not be punished.
“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.”
Update 7:30 p.m. EST Jan. 1: Arnold Palmer Hospital issued a statement on behalf of the father of a 2-year-old girl who fell into a rhino exhibit at Brevard Zoo.
"Today has been a trying day for our family. We're thankful to everyone who has reached out with their concerns," the statement said. "Our daughter is in good care at Arnold Palmer Hospital and is doing well. My wife was also treated for her injury and has been released from the hospital. At this time, we ask for privacy as we focus on our daughter's recovery."
A toddler fell into the rhinoceros exhibit at the Brevard Zoo on New Year's Day, Brevard County Fire Rescue said.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials examine the bars from which a toddler fell into the enclosure of a rhino exhibit at Brevard Zoo. Photo: WFTV.com
Firefighters said the girl, who is about 2 years old, was sent to a hospital under a trauma alert status. They said the child's mother was also taken to a hospital to be treated for a non-life-threatening arm injury.
"Early this afternoon, during a Rhino Encounter, a hands-on, educational experience with Brevard Zoo's white rhinoceroses, a young guest entered the rhinoceros yard and was injured," said Elliot Zirulnik, a zoo spokesman. "During the encounter, participants and the rhinoceroses are separated by a series of steel poles. According to witnesses, the child stumbled and fell in between two of the poles and at this point, the snout of at least one of (the) rhinoceroses made contact with the child."
The family was taken to a hospital by ambulance, Zirulnik said. The child's condition is unknown, he said.
Zoo officials said the animal experience has been offered daily since 2009. They said this is the first time a visitor has been injured during the experience.
"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. "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."
No other details were given.
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