Man hurt after getting through safety barrier in jaguar exhibit at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A normal day at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens for many turned into an evening in the hospital for a man after he was swiped by a jaguar.

“I think he probably has learned his lesson for sure,” said Kelly Rouillard, director of marketing for the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

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There’s a wooden safety barrier, distanced space and large metal fencing, which leads into the actual jaguar exhibit. Action News Jax was told the man got past the wooden barrier, stuck his arm through the metal fencing and then was swiped by the jaguar.

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department transported the man to the hospital.

Rouillard said he had cuts on his arm but nothing life-threatening.

“Most guests respect and understand that area; we have signage identifying so,” she said. “It wasn’t something he wasn’t easily able to just hop over. It took some maneuvering.”

There are three jaguars individually housed at the Jacksonville Zoo. Rouillard said the animal care team is inspecting and investigating the situation, calling the situation unusual and something that doesn’t happen often.

Officials are unsure what he was doing other than trying to get the jaguars’ attention.

“You just never know. These are wild animals. It’s not something that you want to take that risk with,” Rouillard said.

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As of right now, zoo officials don’t believe they will press charges but will have a better understanding on Thursday.

“We don’t think this person was attempting to do anything or had any intent of malice, probably just wanted to be friendly, and this is an unfortunate incident, which is why we have these safety measures in place,” Rouillard said.

Rouillard said the team wasn’t physically there when it happened, adding there are no security cameras in those areas. Moving forward, it’s also more than likely zoo officials won’t be installing cameras, given the unlikeliness of these types of incidents.

The zoo confirmed the jaguar is OK and uninjured.

The zoo said it is still investigating how the person got over the safety barrier and now that the zoo is closed for the night, zoo staff believes this will allow them the time needed to further investigate.

The zoo said at this time, it is not yet known if the exhibit will be closed Thursday.

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