Toddler Nearly Falls Into Animal Enclosure At Omaha Zoo

posted by WOWT News -

(WOWT) -- What began as a typical trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo Sunday turned frightening for a mother whose 3-year-old son apparently squeezed his way into an animal enclosure.

The boy’s father said he was grabbing food when the incident happened. He said his wife was watching the two kids. As she looked over to check on her 6-year-old daughter, their 3-year-old son slipped through a fence at the African Grasslands exhibit.

The zoo was packed this past Sunday; the beautiful weather brought more than 1,500 visitors, including Boyd Keith Adams.

"We were walking past this one exhibit that said rhinos, giraffes and impalas,” said Adams."We wanted to go down there and look at the animals."

That’s when Adams noticed a panicking mother. He says her three-year-old son was inside the animal enclosure.

"I said, ‘hey lady do you want me to save your kid?’...and she said ‘yes!”"

So Adams says he had to climb and then hop over the fence.

"At this grand old age of going-on 60 it probably didn't look good, but I got over the fence,” recalled Adams. "He was kind of going to the edge so that made me a little bit antsy."

A picture taken by Adams' wife shortly after the incident shows a big drop off, approximately 10 feet, just beyond the fence the boy had slipped through. It’s a drop off further into the animal enclosure.

"Animals are animals. They're going to defend their territory, that's just what they do,” Adams said.

Fortunately, Adams got the boy to come back with him to the fence and handed him over it to his mother.

"We were glad to see the picture that you had. It kind of indicated we were in the right area," zoo curator Dan Cassidy told WOWT 6 News.

On Monday, zoo officials said they had received no reports of this happening, but immediately went into action. They had their safety experts walk through the entire area.

"There was a little bit of a gap about as wide as from tip to tip of fingers," said Cassidy.

The toddler apparently squeezed between a nearly 8-inch gap between fence posts.

"We fixed that thing first thing this morning. It's not an issue,” Cassidy said on Tuesday.

They take these things seriously especially after a small boy fell into the Cincinnati Zoo's gorilla enclosure in 2016.

Harambe the silverback gorilla was shot and killed during that incident.

"Immediately when that happened, not just our zoo but zoos all around the country took a harder look at their enclosures."

The African Grasslands exhibit only opened last spring.

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