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Family of girl injured by rhino at Brevard Zoo describes 'trying day'

2-year-old taken to Orlando hospital after falling into exhibit

ORLANDO, Fla. – The family of a 2-year-old girl who was injured by a rhino Tuesday at the Brevard Zoo issued a statement about the incident.

"(Tuesday) has been a trying day for our family," the girl's father said. "We’re thankful to everyone who has reached out with their concerns. Our daughter is in good care at Arnold Palmer Hospital and is doing well. My wife was also treated for her injury and has been released from the hospital. At this time, we ask for privacy as we focus on our daughter’s recovery.”

The toddler remained at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children on Wednesday, her family said in a new statement Wednesday evening.

“We appreciate everyone’s concern about our daughter," the family said through an Orlando Health spokesperson. "At this time, we’re keeping our sole focus on her health and well-being. As her recovery continues, we will provide further updates.”

The toddler and her family were taking part in a close-up experience with white rhinos at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne when the girl fell into the exhibit and at least one of the animals came into contact with her.

The family of three were given access to feel and brush the rhinos while supervised by two zookeepers in an area of the zoo where they were separated from the animals only by steel posts, officials said. At some point during the experience, the toddler landed in the rhinos' yard, said Andrea Hill, the zoo's marketing and communications director.

The distance between the posts is roughly 11 inches, Hill said.

As two female rhinos approached the toddler, the snout of one of them made contact with the child, Hill said.

The child's father, who was holding on to her throughout the incident, quickly pulled her out and carried her to the front office before the family was taken to the hospital, the zoo said.

Details about the child's injuries have not been released.

"Our No. 1 concern is the safety and welfare of our guests, and our hearts go out to the family," said Keith Winsten, the zoo's executive director. "Safety has always been of paramount importance to us."

A Brevard Zoo file photos shows visitors petting one of the three southern white rhinos at the zoo. On Jan. 1, 2019, a child fell into the rhino exhibit and was injured, Brevard County officials said. (Image: Brevard Zoo)
A Brevard Zoo file photos shows visitors petting one of the three southern white rhinos at the zoo. On Jan. 1, 2019, a child fell into the rhino exhibit and was injured, Brevard County officials said. (Image: Brevard Zoo)

In a statement, zoo officials said the rhino encounters have been suspended until a safety review is completed.

The experience has been offered daily since 2009 and no other incidents had been reported, the zoo said.

The Brevard Zoo, which houses more than 900 animals, is about 55 miles southeast of Orlando.

Watch News 6 and stay with ClickOrlando.com for updates.

CNN contributed to this report.


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