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10 People Who Fell into Animal Enclosures at Zoos

10 Times People Fell into Animal Enclosures at Zoos

Getting up close and personal with an animal that would only ever be in the wild, is always a thrilling experience. The following people, however, found themselves on the wrong side of an enclosure, at a zoo.


10. Levan Merritt

In 1986, five-year-old Levan fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Jersey Zoo in the UK. The boy lost consciousness and began bleeding as a result of the fall. A silverback male gorilla named Jambo approached the child, noticed that the child was harmed and stayed with him to protect him from the other gorillas in the enclosure. The boy eventually woke up and scared off Jambo and the other gorillas when he began to cry, thus offering keepers a chance to save him.

9. Maddox Derkosh

Maddox Derkosh, 2, lost his life in 2012 at the Pennsylvania zoo, after falling into an enclosure of African wild dogs. The child’s mother had been holding him at the top of the enclosure’s railing when the boy made a lunge for it and ended up landing inside the exhibit. Sadly, he was fatally attacked and died before he could receive help. It’s not known whether he died from the 14-foot fall or if he bled to death from being mauled.

8. Unnamed 3-year-old toddler

In 1996, a 3-year-old toddler, snuck away from his mother, climbed the protective barrier and fell in the gorilla enclosure at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. Binti Jua, a female gorilla, approached the limp boy, picked him up gently and carried him over to the exhibit’s service door. The boy was rescued by zookeepers and received medical attention. The unidentified child suffered from a broken hand and some scratches. The female gorilla was praised for her actions, with some people offering to adopt her, and one man purchasing several bananas for her to enjoy.

7. Unidentified man

Two lions were killed at the Santiago Metropolitan Zoo in Chile, in 2016, to protect a man who had deliberately climbed into the exhibit to commit suicide. The unnamed man climbed into the exhibit, stripped his clothes and came into contact with the lions. Zookeepers had to make the painful choice to shoot the lions to save the man. It is said the man chose to commit suicide after finding a note in his clothes.

6. Mandy K

In 2009, Mandy K climbed into a polar bear enclosure at the Berlin Zoo in Germany during the bears’ feeding time. She dived into the water and swam out to “meet” the bears. One of the bears responded to the intrusion by biting the woman’s arms and legs and inflicting serious damage. Zookeepers were able to drag the woman to safety, by pushing away the polar bear that was attacking her. Officials at the zoo blamed the woman, who was a teacher, for endangering her life and those of the zookeepers, as well as disturbing the peace.

5. Daniel Dukes

In 1999, a man’s body was found floating on the back of a killer whale at Sea World, Orlando. Although he didn’t have any serious external injuries, his body was covered in scratches and bruises. Park officials believed that the man eluded security details and managed to stay in the park long after it had closed. He then went in to play with the largest killer whale in captivity at the time, the five-ton Tilikum. Investigations at the time suggested that the man drowned after being repeatedly dragged underwater by the whale. His body also had puncture wounds that suggested that the whale dragged him into the pool.

4. Rick Swope

In 1999, a man jumped into the chimpanzee exhibit to save a chimpanzee that was drowning at the Detroit Zoo. Rick Swope, a 33-year-old truck driver, couldn’t stand to watch the poor animal thrashing in the water and fighting for its life. In a split second, he decided to jump in and save the animal. He dragged the chimpanzee back to safety, and at no point did the animal attempt to harm him. Zoo officials thanked the man for his dangerous but equally heroic act.

3. Unnamed female

An unidentified woman jumped into the tiger enclosure at the Toronto Zoo, Canada, to retrieve her hat that had fallen into the enclosure. Park officials were unaware of the incident, which caused a frenzy, until a video of the incident surfaced online. The video shows the woman picking up her hat, then scrambling to climb back over the fence. All the while, a tiger had been stalking her from behind a second fence. The woman received backlash, with most people calling her an idiot for risking her life because of a hat.

2. Zhang Xiao

Gugu, a giant panda at the Beijing zoo, has had several incidences of trespassers attempting to hug him. All the trespassers end up with bite marks courtesy of the panda. A more recent incident is one that happened in 2009. A young child dropped his toy panda into Gugu’s enclosure and his father, Zhang Xiao, jumped the fence in order to retrieve it. Unfortunately, the panda attacked him, causing severe injuries to his legs. Xiao was admitted to hospital afterwards, bleeding profusely and in pain, with gash wounds all over legs. The man claims that he made the decision to jump in and retrieve the toy when he noticed no pandas around but was shocked to see a panda rushing him after he’d picked up the toy.

1. 2-year-old toddler

A two-year-old toddler reportedly fell into the cheetah exhibit at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. His parents are responsible for the incident as they dangled him over the railing a few seconds before he fell. Luckily, the cheetahs in the enclosure paid no mind to the child and simply ignored him, even as his parents jumped in to save him. The boy suffered leg injuries as a result of his 12 feet fall. The child’s mother was later charged with aggravated trespassing.


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