A woman trying to take a selfie with a jaguar learned — the hard way — that barriers between guests and animals are there for a reason. She suffered non-life-threatening injuries when the animal swiped her arm, ABC News is reporting. The incident happened on Saturday at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium, and Safari Park, located just outside of Phoenix, Arizona.
Zoo officials say that the woman, who has not been identified, crossed a barrier separating visitors and the female cat, in an effort to get a better shot. The animal, possibly feeling threatened since its territory had been breached, reacted by swiping at her. The woman suffered deep gashes to her arm.
Witness Adam Wilkerson, who recorded video of the incident, tells KNXV-TV (Phoenix) that he and his family were enjoying a day at the zoo when he heard screams coming from the jaguar enclosure. He saw the animal’s claws grasping the woman’s hand.
“It seems like pandemonium. Everyone yelling for help,” Wilkerson recounted on Reddit.
Wilkerson says his mother distracted the cat with a water bottle while zoo officials came rushing in to attend to the scene. However, his claim has not been verified by the zoo itself, or by other media outlets.
Fortunately, zoo officials were able to regain control of the situation, and the woman was taken to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
In a statement, Wildlife World Zoo Director Mickey Ollson admitted that this was the second time this particular cat had swiped at a visitor. However, the animal will not be euthanized, because it is not the zoo’s policy to put down animals because of guests’ behavior.
“I think you observe the barriers – they are there for a good reason. We try to keep everyone safe, we have an excellent safety record here with all our animals… when people do not respect the barriers, there’s always a chance there might be a problem.”
Did you know...— Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park (@ZooWildlife) January 4, 2019
WWZ was the first institution in the ???? to exhibit big cats above visitor’s heads starting in 1985 w/ the black jaguar exhibit. The jaguars benefited from the enrichment & our visitors loved it! #NationalTriviaDay #FunFact #Jaguar #Enrichment
(????: L Fuentes) pic.twitter.com/rp8CN4dHt5
While zoos are generally safe, problems do arise on rare occasions. Last July, for example, a jaguar at New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo escaped its enclosure and killed several other animals, including three foxes, five alpacas, and an emu. Fortunately, the escape happened during off-hours, when no visitors were present.
In fact, the majority of cases involving animal-on-human attacks at zoos occur when a patron disobeys the rules and crosses into enclosures. For example, as the L.A. Times reported in 2014, a woman was injured when she walked into a giraffe enclosure, requiring ten stitches after the animal kicked her.