Tapir Attack Case Heard by Judge in Court

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The Zoological Society of Ireland has been ordered by a judge to make charitable donations to children’s charities following the attack of a child by a tapir in the zoo.

In August 2013, a group of four adults and four children entered the Brazilian tapir enclosure in Dublin Zoo, supervised by a member of staff. While inside the enclosure and interacting with the animals, one of the tapirs grew agitated. Nobody in the group noticed the animal’s anxiety, so they did not remove themselves from the enclosure. The tapir’s agitation grew, causing it to attack a two-year-old toddler.

The little girl was immediately taken to hospital with her mother, and she had to undergo surgery on her stomach and arms to treat her injuries. Her mother also received medical attention, for when she was trying to free her little girl from the animal’s grasp, she was injured.

An investigation into the attack was launched by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), which subsequently prosecuted the Zoological Society of Ireland for the attack of a tapir on a toddler and her mother. The report released after the investigation was complete revealed that the visit to the tapir enclosure had been in contravention of a risk assessment conducted in the zoo in 2006, which concluded that members of the public should not have access to the tapir enclosure.

The HSA charged the Zoological Society of Ireland with a breach of Section 19.4 of the 2005 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act. The case was brought to the Dublin District Court, where it was heard by Judge John O’Neill. A representative of the Zoological Society of Ireland read a statement in which the zoo apologised for the injuries sustained by the toddler and her mother in the attack. It also provided a list of the health and safety changes it had implemented since the event in order to prevent another of its kind. The Zoological Society of Ireland pleaded guilty to the charges against them.

The judge put the Zoological Society of Ireland on probation, subject to it paying €5,000 in charitable donations to two children’s charities-LauraLynn Children’s Hospital and the Jack and Jill Foundation. If the payments are made by the 8th of December this year, then no conviction will be recorded against the society.

No civil proceedings are being brought by the parents on behalf of their child against the zoo.

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