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Jaguar attacks woman who crossed a zoo barrier for a selfie, Arizona firefighters say

Screengrab from KTVK video

An Arizona zoo erupted in “pandemonium” Saturday evening when a jaguar clawed a woman who had ventured too close to its enclosure, visitor Adam Wilkerson said, KNXV reported.

Wilkerson had been visiting Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park in Litchfield Park near Phoenix with his family when someone dashed up yelling for help, CNN reported.

“I saw the other girl up against the fence with her arm caught in the jaguar’s claws,” Wilkerson said. “I could see the claws in her actual flesh.”

His mother distracted the jaguar by tossing a water bottle into its enclosure, KTVK reported. When the jaguar released the woman’s arm, Wilkerson pulled her away from the fence.

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“She was lying on the ground screaming in agony,” Wilkerson said, according to the station.

(You can see Wilkerson’s video on his Reddit page. Warning: The content is graphic.)

The woman, reportedly in her 30s, suffered non-life threatening lacerations to her arm, KTVK reported. She was hospitalized.

Zoo officials confirmed the incident, which took place about 6:45 p.m.

“We regret to inform that this evening, before closing there was an incident reported involving a guest, who crossed over the barrier to get a photo, according to eyewitnesses,” read an email statement from Kristy Morcom, a spokeswoman for the Wildlife World Zoo, USA Today reported.

“The visitor sustained non life threatening injuries to their hand from one of our female jaguars,” the statement continued. “At the request of the family, paramedics were called. At no time was the animal out of its enclosure,” the statement continued.”

Rural Metro Fire Department officials said the woman had crossed a barrier to take a selfie by the enclosure’s fence with the jaguar reached out and snagged her arm, KNXV reported.

“There’s no way to fix people crossing barriers,” said zoo director Mickey Ollson, KTVK reported. “That happens occasionally. And we put substantial barriers there and if people cross them, they can get in trouble.”

The jaguar, which is 4 to 5 years old, will not be euthanized because the incident “was not the animal’s fault,” Ollson said, KNXV reported. Zoo officials would “never harm an animal based on human behavior,” he said.

The incident will be investigated, USA Today reported.

The zoo has 600 exotic and endangered species, with more than 6,000 individual animals, according to its website.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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