After attacking a woman at a West Valley wildlife park on Saturday evening, a jaguar will not be put down, therefore using up one of it’s nine lives.
The Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Park responded to a woman’s tweet saying she’ll never visit again in the jaguar is euthanized because of the attack.
“She won’t be put down,” replied the park’s official Twitter account.
A spokesman for the Rural Metro Fire Department, Shawn Gilleland, said the woman was trying to take a selfie beside the jaguar enclosure when one of the big cats reached out and scratched her arm. A fire crew took the woman to a nearby hospital, where her injuries were deemed not life-threatening.
Kristy Morcom, a spokeswoman for the zoo near Litchfield Park, immediately gave a written statement following the attack that claim multiple witnesses saw the woman cross a barrier prior to taking the photo.
“The visitor sustained non life-threatening injuries to their hand from one of our female jaguars. At the request of the family, paramedics were called. At no time was the animal out of its enclosure,” the statement read.
Adam Wilkerson, who helped the woman after the attack, took some video footage, which shows her on the ground, crying and being aided by bystanders. There’s a visible gash on her lower left arm.
“It hurts, it hurts,” she repeated in the video.
In the video, one of the bystanders says they got the jaguar to release her by hitting it with a water bottle.
The woman’s name, age and hometown weren’t released immediately.
Social media was flooded by comments, the majority of which blame the woman for endangering herself and hope the jaguar would escape punishment.
In an interview, Wilkerson said there is a clear barrier – about waist-height and surrounded by shrubbery – between the viewing area and the jaguar’s cage, but it would be easy for someone to bypass.
“Any teenager or adult could reach in and touch the cage if they wanted to, (but) it doesn’t feel advised to do so,” Wilkerson said. “If someone were so inclined to touch the cage, they could if they wanted to.”
The attack didn’t seem to deter any Sunday afternoon visitors. There was a steady stream of families pushing children in strollers arriving at the zoo, which is located west of Luke Air Force Base in the middle of vacant land beside Northern Avenue and Loop 303.
Dave Keller of Glendale came to the zoo with his daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. He had planned to visit for a week and wasn’t at all dissuaded by the attack.
The family said they went to the jaguar’s enclosure but didn’t see the animal there.
The jaguar attack has been viewed as a cautionary lesson for zoo-goers.
Jaguars are “definitely not house cats,” said Michael Hoffman of Peoria, who had just finished a tour of the zoo on was waiting outside for others.
He said when he was inside the zoo, he saw people trying to reach out and “high-five” monkeys with their hands, as well as feeding birds that weren’t meant to be fed. He felt if anyone saw the story about the jaguar attack, they didn’t take a lesson from it at all.
Joanna Elm of Cottonwood visited the zoo with her family and said she felt perfectly safe. She, like many others, questioned why someone would cross a barrier just to take a selfie.
“Anyone with common sense knows not to cross the barrier,” Elm said.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which handles public safety matters in Litchfield Park didn’t immediately say if the woman would be charged or cited.
The zoo is a USDA-licensed, private facility with more than 600 species and 6,000 animals on display. And according to its website, is accredited by the Zoological Association of America and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums.
The USDA didn’t find any compliance issues during its most recent routine inspection of the facility in March 2018.
Hopefully, people will learn to use common sense when visiting zoos. Just because wild animals are behind steel bars, doesn’t make them any less wild.