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Feds cite Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens with critical violations for two jaguar incidents

A jaguar at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Florida. Photo shared from Facebook/Jacksonville Zoo.

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Florida has been cited with two critical U.S. Department of Agriculture violations in response to two separate incidents involving a jaguar named Henry.

Unlike roadside zoos, Jacksonville Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums which requires high standards of animal care in order to achieve accreditation.

Jacksonville Zoo received a critical violation for an incident that occurred in July when a zoo patron climbed over the wooden public barrier fence and stuck one of his arms through the netting of the jaguar’s enclosure to play with the animal, according to the report.

A jaguar named Harry hooked his nails into the man’s skin on his arm, causing several lacerations.

Media reports indicate the man was able to get his arm free and headed toward the exit unannounced while leaving a trail of blood through the zoo.

“Adequate public barriers are paramount for the safety and well-being of both species,” the USDA report said.

The man was not charged in the incident but was given a trespass warning.

Jacksonville Zoo was also cited with a critical violation for an earlier incident involving Harry.

In February, a zoo employee was attempting to shift Harry and another jaguar named Zenta after Harry was observed ingesting pieces of an enrichment item, according to a Jacksonville Zoo press release. Zenta and Harry were housed separately.

The zoo employee accidentally opened the wrong shift door, according to the USDA report, and Harry was able to quickly move through the opening and attack Zenta.

The keeper, along with several other keepers, used fire extinguishers and pepper spray to try to separate the animals.

Once the animals were separated, Zenta was found unresponsive and died as a result of the attack.

“Improper handling, in this case shifting, of animals can affect the well-being of the animal and even lead to injury and/or death,” according to the USDA report.

As an added safety precaution, Jacksonville Zoo installed an additional lock for shifting animals which is used to remind the keepers to stop and confirm they are opening the right door, according to the report.

Harry is one of five jaguars that remain at Jacksonville Zoo after Zenta’s death.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens Director for Animal Care Dan Maloney released a press release after the February incident and said the zoo would be reviewing their procedures.

"Our focus now is to complete the investigation and identify corrective measures to mitigate this type of incident in the future," Maloney said.


Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens August 2021 USDA Inspection Report:

PST_Inspection_Report_Jacksonville Zoological Society
Download PDF • 275KB


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