Child falls into rhinoceros exhibit at Florida zoo

By Stefan Becket

/ CBS News

The rhinoceros enclosure at Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida. Brevard Zoo

A child was taken to the hospital after stumbling into a rhinoceros exhibit at a Florida zoo and coming into contact with one of the animals, officials said Tuesday.

Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida, said the child was taking part in a "hands-on, educational experience" with the zoo's southern white rhinos when he or she apparently fell between steel poles separating guests from the rhino yard. The zoo is about 50 miles southeast of Orlando.

In a statement, the zoo said "the snout of at least one of rhinoceroses made contact with the child." Spokesman Elliot Zirulnik told CBS affiliate WKMG-TV the snout is defined as the area below the animal's horn.

The child was rescued and taken to the Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando, WKMG reported. The child's condition and the nature of the injuries is unclear. The child's mother was also transported to a local hospital for unspecified treatment.

"Our number one concern is the safety and welfare of our guests and our hearts go out to the family," the zoo's executive director Keith Winsten said. "Safety has always been of paramount importance to us and we are suspending these encounters until we have thoroughly reviewed our processes and procedures to ensure this cannot happen again."

The zoo said the "Rhino Encounters" had been held daily without incident for about a decade.

Brevard Zoo is home to four southern white rhinos, including two males and two females, according to its website. Frankie, a 16-year-old, 5,200 pound male, arrived at the zoo in October.

First published on January 1, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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