A 3-year-old boy who was mauled by jaguars after falling into their exhibit at a zoo in Arkansas on Friday is in critical condition, a hospital spokesperson said.
The incident revived chilling memories of a similar incident at the Delhi zoo on September 23 when a youth was killed by a white Bengal tiger after he slipped into the big cat’s enclosure.
Little Rock police quoted the child’s father and grandfather as saying the toddler was seized at the neck by one of two jaguars and at the foot by the second cat after falling 15 feet (4.5 metres) into the enclosure.
Both the adults were present when the incident happened.
The boy suffered extensive scalp lacerations, a depressed skull fracture and several puncture wounds, the police report quoted a doctor at Arkansas Children’s Hospital at Little Rock as saying.
The wounds did not appear to be life-threatening, the police report added.
The boy's father and grandfather said they threw a camera bag and an empty water hose spool at the animals, causing them to drop the child.
When zoo personnel arrived they entered the exhibit and used fire extinguishers to keep the jaguars at bay until the rescue was completed.
Authorities said they were trying to establish how the child fell into the open-air exhibit at the zoo, one of the state’s most popular attractions.
A hospital spokesman declined to identify the child, citing the family’s request for privacy and the age of the patient.
The child's family lives in Maumelle, a Little Rock suburb, according to the police report.
The jaguar exhibit has been closed to the public pending further review of the incident, a zoo spokeswoman said.