Toddler injured after falling into rhino exhibit at Florida zoo

Tyler Vazquez
A child fell into a rhino exhibit at the Brevard Zoo on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019.

MELBOURNE, Fla. — A toddler was injured after stumbling into a rhino exhibit at a Florida zoo and being bumped by one of the animals on New Year's Day. 

A trauma alert was issued for the 2-year-old just after noon on Tuesday when the child was taken to a pediatric hospital after making contact with one of the rhinos at Brevard Zoo. 

Keith Winsten, the zoo's executive director, said that the child fell through the steel poles that separate guests and rhinos during a “hands-on, educational experience" where zoo patrons can get up close to the white rhinos. 

Guests on the encounter are separated from the rhinos by steel poles approximately 11 inches apart, Winsten said. The child fell backward between the poles and off a 4-inch-high curb into the rhino exhibit. 

"The parents immediately leapt to bring the child out," Winsten said. "We immediately called ambulances and the family was taken away." 

That's when one of the two female rhinos near the encounter turned her head and bumped the child with her snout, Winsten said. Only three guests were in the exhibit at the time: the child and two parents. 

More: Lion escapes locked area at North Carolina center, kills 22-year-old intern

Zoo officials do not believe the rhino's horn touched the child, and the nature of her injuries was not immediately known, Winsten said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers were investigating the incident. FWC oversees zoo safety issues.

Winsten said the zoo has stopped the rhino encounters while safety policies are being reviewed, but this is the first such incident since the feature began in 2009. 

The zoo is home to four rhinos, including a 5,200-pound male named Frankie, according to the zoo's website

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Toddler injured after falling into rhino exhibit at Florida zoo