After the media reported that a jaguar mauled a woman who tried to take a “selfie” with the wild animal, which the victim denies, calls for the animal to be put down ensued. Following the attack, the zoo came forward with a surprising response.
Every zoo in America has requirements for how they contain wild animals. In fact, the more dangerous a predator is, the more security measures officials must meet. However, no matter what type of barrier they erect, there is always a risk that someone might be harmed.
When a young woman was mauled by a black jaguar at the Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium, & Safari Park in Litchfield Park, Arizona, they were immediately inundated with calls for the animal to be put down. Many people were outraged, believing that the animal was too much of a danger to visitors and may attack again.
After receiving numerous complaints, some demanding that the jaguar be killed for attacking the woman, the zoo announced its final decision. Incredibly, the response wasn’t quite what most expected.
After investigating the attack, the zoo came to the conclusion that the woman was at fault for violating the protective wall and approaching the wild animal. Deciding that “human error” was to blame, zoo officials promised that the jaguar would not be put down because it was the woman’s fault for crossing the barrier.
“We can promise you nothing will happen to our jaguar. She’s a wild animal and there were proper barriers in place to keep our guests safe — not a wild animals fault when barriers are crossed. Still sending prayers to her and her family,” Wildlife World Zoo, Aquariuam & Safari Park stated on Twitter.
The decision was met with some praise, as many insisted that the woman, identified only as “Leanne,” was to blame. However, she claims that the media isn’t telling the whole story.
It was initially reported that the woman had crossed the barrier in order to take a “selfie” with the animal, which she vehemently denies. Instead, she maintains that she leaned far over the wall, which she admits was a mistake. It was then that she came in contact with the fence, prompting the jaguar to reach it’s paw through and claw her arm.
“I never crossed the barrier. I was not trying to get a selfie. If I was trying to get a selfie, I think my injuries would be in a different place,” she told CBS News.
The attack left the woman with puncture wounds on her arm from the jaguar’s claws. Bystanders rushed over to the woman, who was screaming for help when the animal refused to let her go. Fortunately, another visitor managed to distract the jaguar with a bottle of water, allowing the victim to escape. Still, the animal attempted to hold onto her shirt as witnesses pulled her away.
Leanne has since admitted her error in the incident and contacted zoo officials the next morning to apologize. She explained that she doesn’t want the media attention and hopes that the story dies down soon.
“I apologized to the zoo because they don’t need this. They don’t need the backlash — the media. I never went to the media. I never would have. I didn’t want this big thing that’s now apparently national,” Leanne said.
Although she has apologized, Leanne still believes that the zoo is partially to blame. She explained that she believes a more effective barrier is in order so that a similar incident doesn’t happen to someone else.
“I was in the wrong for leaning over the barrier, but I do think the zoo should look into move their fence back,” she said. “I was told that it was at federal regulation, but if that jaguar can get her paw through the fence, anybody can reach out. I’m not the first, and if they don’t move the fence, I’m probably not going to be the last.”
Leanne has since offered to start a fundraiser to pay for a new concrete barrier, which she says should be located further back from the metal fence. However, this still wouldn’t prevent individuals from crossing it and approaching the big cat if they insisted.
Leanne admitted that she still plans to visit the zoo. However, she might want to stay away from the jaguar exhibit or at least remain behind the barrier.
“I grew up here. I go to the zoo all the time. I live close to the zoo. I take my kids to the zoo. I don’t want that to change,” she said.
Although Leanne only suffered minor injuries, her experience has sparked debate over whether she is solely to blame or the zoo holds any responsibility. For now, the barrier will stay as is, and visitors will be expected not to violate it.