A toddler died after he fell into an exhibit of African wild dogs at the Pittsburgh Zoo on Sunday.
The two-year-old’s mother picked him up and put him on top of a railing at the edge of a viewing deck when he lost his balance and fell.
There was a safety net below the railing, but it failed to catch him and the boy dropped more than 10 feet into the enclosure, according to the president of the Pittsburgh Zoo.
The eleven dogs inside the exhibit then attacked and killed him.
“From witnesses’ accounts, the child was so small that he bounced, he bounced twice, and then he bounced into the exhibit,” said Barbara Baker, CEO and president of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.
Baker, who has been with the zoo since 2009, teared up during the news conference Monday afternoon.
Staffers rushed to the scene and tried firing darts to scare the dogs away from the child but the animals did not immediately respond.
“It happened so quickly, it happened literally in seconds, it was very, very quick,” said Baker. “There was very, very little anybody could do.”
Baker told reporters that she had been informed by the Allegheny County medical examiner that an autopsy determined the boy survived the plunge. The medical examiner’s office has not yet publicly confirmed its findings or released the boy’s name.
African painted dogs are an endangered species and are about the size of a medium-sized domestic dog, according to the zoo. These pack hunters are also known as cape hunting dogs, spotted dogs and painted wolves.
(African painted dog, image via Reuters)
Jack Hanna, Columbus Zoo director emeritus, told ABC News that the animals are “one of the most aggressive predatory animals in the wild. “A zookeeper, a tranquilizer gun could not have helped,” he added.
The zoo was immediately closed after the accident but was expected to reopen Tuesday.