A Florida man has reportedly been hospitalized due to injuries he received after sticking his arm in a jaguar pen at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens on Wednesday.
Witnesses said that the unidentified man, who was described as being in his 20s, had taunted the big cats before jumping over a barrier at the Range of the Jaguar exhibit and inserting his hand into an enclosure, according to WJXT. A jaguar then clawed the man’s arm, leaving zoo employees a trail of blood to clean up after emergency workers bandaged the man and transported him to the hospital.
“This is an individual that wasn’t using his head… He stuck his hand in through the mesh that separates the jaguars from the outside,” deputy zoo director Dan Maloney told the outlet, before adding that the incident “would have been a very different story” if the animal had been able to secure a stronger grip on the man.
Zoo officials told WJAX that the jaguar that attacked the man was “perfectly fine” and that there was no indication that the man’s actions meant he “was trying to hurt the jaguar.” The zoo was closed on Tuesday night while staff invested how the man was able to breach the barrier. It was not clear whether the jaguar exhibit would be open on Thursday. Additional details about the man and his current status were also unknown, although his injuries were not life-threatening.
Newsweek reached out to Jacksonville Fire-Rescue and Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens for comment.
In February, a 12-year-old male jaguar killed a 21-year-old female jaguar in what the Jacksonville Zoo called a “terrible mistake.” It is not clear whether the jaguar involved in Wednesday’s incident was the same animal or one of the zoo’s other three remaining jaguars.
In March 2019, a woman visiting Phoenix, Arizona’s Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park was attacked by a jaguar after allegedly crossing a barrier to attempt to photograph of herself with the animal. A video taken in the aftermath of the incident showed the woman lying on the ground with a clearly injured arm as people surrounded her and offered aid.
“[The woman] crossed over the barrier to get a photo, according to eyewitnesses,” the zoo said in a statement at the time. “The visitor sustained non-life threatening injuries to their arm from one of our female jaguars. At the request of the family, paramedics were called.”
A similar incident involving a jaguar attack during what was allegedly an ill-conceived attempt to snap a selfie took place at a zoo in Mexico in January, 2020. A 30-year-old woman suffered serious injuries to her arm after crossing a barrier for a photo during a visit to the “Bio Zoo” in Córdoba, Veracruz.
Zoo officials did not euthanize any of the jaguars involved in the attacks since the animals were behaving as would be expected after being provoked by zoo visitors who allegedly ignored safety warnings and barriers.