A woman in her 30s has apologized after she climbed over a barrier at a zoo near Phoenix, Ariz. on Saturday to take a selfie with a jaguar, who wound up clawing her.
The Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park, Ariz., where the incident happened, said in a statement that the woman sustained non-life threatening injuries and at no point was the animal out of its enclosure.
Kitty Block, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States, as well as president of the Human Society International, says her first thought when hearing about the incident was, “Thank goodness the person was OK and that the animal was not euthanized as a result.”
“That was good,” Block tells Here & Now’s Robin Young. “The problem is that people think these animals are approachable. … And it's not the case.
Similar cases of humans being attacked by animals in or near their enclosures have made the news recently. Earlier this year, a 2-year-old was hospitalized after stumbling into a rhinoceros enclosure in Florida, and in December, a 22-year-old intern was killed while cleaning a lion enclosure in North Carolina. More famously, in 2016, a silverback gorilla named Harambe grabbed a 3-year-old boy after he fell into his enclosure.
Block says part of the problem is wildlife exhibitors allowing contact between people and animals. The Wildlife World Zoo has these so-called contact-interaction spaces, which, she says, indicate “it's OK and these animals will just pose for a selfie.”
“Somehow, they think they're cute and cuddly and these big cats are nothing more than big house cats,” says Block. “They are dangerous wild animals, and people should not in any way be in contact with them.”
Instead, she says, animal exhibits have to be airtight to protect both the people and the animals, who “suffer greatly when these things happen.”
“It could have been disastrous for the woman who went over the barrier and of course for the animal,” says Block. “Wild animals are beautiful, majestic, but they live separately from us.
“Selfies just don't do it.”
This segment aired on March 11, 2019.
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