An investigation is underway after a boy was seen standing inside the rhinoceros exhibit at the Dublin Zoo.
On July 30, images appeared online of the boy standing inside the fence of the rhinoceros enclosure, a few yards away from a southern white rhino in the African Plans area of the zoo, as reported by the Daily Mail.
According to witnesses, the child was inside the exhibit for up to 20 minutes. Even though the man and child involved were reportedly unaffected, fellow patrons at the zoo were shocked.
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"I only saw the man putting the child [over] the fence," an onlooker told the Irish Daily Mail. "The child didn’t look scared and nobody really [seemed to care] what he was doing. The child stood there for a good while and the man kept letting go of his hand and telling him to move further back to pose for a picture."
The Dublin Zoo released a statement saying that the child’s presence inside the enclosure was “completely against Dublin Zoo’s health and safety rules.”
"It was such a stupid thing to do," another zoo patron told the Irish Mirror. "He was only [meters] away from the rhinos. People were totally horrified. The child was with a male relative who was getting him to pose for photos and trying to make the child go further in."
Gillian Bird, from the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, explained to the Irish Times that rhinos were unassuming, calm animals. However, although the large animals cannot see well, they could possibly charge toward a stimulus out of provocation or curiosity.
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"From an animal welfare point of view, if the zoo keepers had to intervene, they’d probably have to take drastic action," Bird said. "They can sedate the animal with a dart gun but there’s always a chance that could end badly."
If the zookeepers had to intervene to protect the child, they would reportedly probably just kill the animal.
"Anybody who would do that is not thinking of child welfare or the animal’s welfare," she said of the child’s male guardian.