Family trip to zoo takes terrifying turn after child falls into jaguar exhibit

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CNN – LITTLE ROCK, AR. -A child who fell into a jaguar exhibit at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas on Friday is now listed in stable condition, according to a hospital spokesman.

The 3-year-old boy’s condition has been updated from critical to stable, according to a press release from Arkansas Children’s Hospital obtained by KARK.

The child, who is not being named, is expected to improve.

“We respect the wishes of the child’s guardian, who asked that the child’s name and any additional information not be shared at this time,” said Dan McFadden, director of communications for the hospital.

Witnesses say screams for help rang out loudly after the 3-year-old boy slipped through the exhibit rail feet first, plummeting into the cat pit, according to a Little Rock police report.

The child was with his father and grandfather at the time of the incident. The father told Little Rock police he was leaning over the rail in an attempt to take a photograph of the animals and observed his son’s feet go over the rail out of his peripheral vision. The child’s grandfather says the little boy fell approximately 15-16 feet, police said.

Two jaguars in the enclosure attacked the toddler. “The black cat had bit the child on the foot area and the yellow jaguar had bit the clothing near the neck area,” read the police report, quoting the grandfather.

Fire extinguishers were used to ward off the big cats in the exhibit, while a zookeeper lowered a ladder, climbed into the cat pit and retrieved the child, according to a statement released by the zoo.

Zookeepers said the rescued child was conscious and responding.

Though doctors said the wounds are not life-threatening, the toddler had an extensive scalp laceration, a depressed skull fracture and minor puncture wounds, according to the police report.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the child and the family. The safety of our citizens is of paramount value and our staff followed training procedures on rescuing the child and were able to respond quickly and efficiently and work with emergency personnel, said Bruce Moore, Little Rock city manager, in a statement.

City officials said a full investigation into the incident is being conducted.