9 Frightening Animal Encounters: When a Day at the Zoo Becomes a Nightmare

Before the Cincinnati Zoo tragedy involving a 3-year-old boy and a gorilla, there have been other similar, terrifying encounters for visitors.

Before the Cincinnati Zoo tragedy involving a little boy and a giant gorilla, there have been other similar, terrifying encounters for visitors.

In some instances, no one  including animals  were injured. In other circumstances, the events ended in an unspeakable tragedy.

Read: Mom's Panicked 911 Call from Zoo's Gorilla Exhibit: 'He's Dragging My Son, I Can't Watch This'

Gorilla Stands Guard Over Boy Who Fell Into Enclosure

In 1986, a 5-year-old British boy named Levan Merritt fell 12 feet onto a concrete strip in the gorilla enclosure at the Jersey Zoo. Knocked unconscious, the boy lay motionless while gorillas lumbered toward him.

As a tourist filmed with his brand new video camera, a silverback gorilla named Jambo stood guard between the boy and other apes in the pen, and at one point, stroked the boy's back as if to soothe him.

When Merritt came to and began to cry, the gorillas, including Jambo, backed off. Rescuers were able to climb down with a rope and pull the boy to safety.

American Tourist Mauled by Lion in South Africa Worked on ‘Game of Thrones’

In June 2015, American tourist Katherine Chappell was mauled to death by a lion inside the Johannesburg Lion Park in South Africa.

The 29-year-old was driving through the lion park taking photos and apparently ignored the warning signs to keep windows closed at all times.

Her tour guide behind the wheel was quoted as saying Katherine "...had a camera and, of her own accord, rolled down the passenger window in order to take photographs. A lion then attacked [her] through the open window."

Chappell was on a volunteer mission to preserve wildlife when she died from the savage injuries to her neck. Her 66-year-old guide reportedly suffered a heart attack as he tried to fight off the lion.

Read: Witnesses Claim Harambe, gorilla Shot Dead at Zoo, Appeared Protective of the Boy

She was a special-effects editor who worked on Captain America, Divergent, and the Emmy-winning show Game of Thrones.

Following her death, world-renowned wildlife expert Jack Hanna told Inside Edition: “You go to these parks, these parks have rules and they are very simple. You don't open your door. You don't open your window. You follow the rules! I have been on safari where people don't follow the rules. They still want that better picture  'Got to get that better picture, let's get closer to that lion. Let's get real close like 10 yards close.' You don't want to get that close picture because it may be your last picture."

Drunk Woman Sneaks Into Zoo, Bitten by Tiger: Cops

On Halloween 2015, a Nebraska woman drunkenly sneaked into a zoo on Halloween and was bitten by a tiger while trying to pet it, police say.

Jacqueline Eide, 33, and a friend allegedly managed to get inside Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium before cops say she made her way to the tiger exhibit.

Police say she tried to pet the zoo’s 3-legged, Malaysian tiger and the animal bit her left hand. She was rushed to the hospital for surgery to her fingers and to salvage her hand.

Prosecutors charged Eide with three misdemeanors, including trespassing. In April 2016, she pleaded guilty to the charges. She also paid a $250 fine.

Gorilla Bites Down on 3-Year-Old’s Chest, Mother’s Leg

One family’s day at the zoo in 2004 left them with scars and memories they will never forget.

Keisha Armstrong and her then 3-year-old son, Rivers, came face-to-face with a gorilla that escaped its enclosure at The Dallas Zoo.

The 340-pound animal went after Rivers, biting him in the chest and causing one of his lungs to collapse.

Read: Gorilla Saga Brings Back Agonizing Memories for Mom Whose Son Was Attacked in 2004

His mother told Inside Edition in 2016: “From out of nowhere the gorilla just came out and grabbed Rivers up like he was a piece of paper and put him in his mouth.”

Keisha actually fought with the gorilla and was badly injured, but she saved her son's life.

“He just bit down on my leg and it was the most excruciating pain that I have ever felt,” she said.

Rivers, now 15, made a full recovery and is currently a high school football star.

Woman Jumps Fence in Berlin Zoo Nearly Becomes Dinner for Hungry Polar Bears

In April 2009, a tourist visiting the Berlin Zoo jumped the fence of the polar bear enclosure during feeding time and almost became a meal herself.

The then 32-year-old woman identified only as "Mandy K." was bitten in the back by a bear who tossed her around the water.

When rescuers came to her aide, they were able to distract the bear and pull her out of the water, however, Mandy K. fell back in and was attacked again by the animal.

She was eventually saved and brought to a hospital to recover.

Tourist Gets His Jacket Ripped Off by a Panda Inside Chinese Zoo

An unsuspecting tourist was taking a breather in front of a panda cage at China’s Chengdu Zoo when the animal reached out and pulled off his jacket in 1992.

The tourist was stuck in a tug-of-war between his friends trying to save him and the 165-pound panda trying to rip him to shreds.

After a short battle, the man was able to slip out of the jacket and escape. The panda took his piece of clothing as a souvenir and played with it in his sanctuary.

2-Year-Old Falls 12 Feet Into Cheetah Exhibit


What was supposed to be a family day at Cleveland’s Metropark Zoo turned into a horrific afternoon.

In April 2015, a 2-year-old boy fell into a cheetah enclosure at the zoo after officials say the boy’s parents were dangling him over the railing of the pit.

Luckily for the unnamed family, the cheetahs did not attack or even bother with the child and they were able to rescue him. He only suffered injuries to his legs after the 12-foot fall into the enclosure.

Man Mauled by Lions in Apparent Suicide Attempt


A 20-year-old man who allegedly suffered depression and mental problems had stripped naked and jumped into a lion enclosure at the Santiago Metropolitan Zoo in Chile.

The man, who was unnamed, was mauled by the lions after he jumped into the enclosure in May 2016. Authorities had to kill the two lions that attacked the man to save his life. He was seriously injured and is still recovering in a hospital.

Local media reported that an apparent suicide note was found in the man’s clothes.

The zoo’s director Alejandra Montalba said the staff followed “established protocol” and were “deeply affected” by the death of the lions.

The zoo issued a statement about the attack on their Facebook page.

They said: “Despite the pain which led to this action, it was necessary to preserve the life of the individual, it was hardly possible was removed from the premises and taken to a clinic to receive the appropriate care, where it currently is.”

The zoo added: “We want to clarify that the halls of our zoo are absolutely safe for our regular visitors and that, in cases like this, in which a person violates the security protocols of the enclosure, are absolutely out of the ordinary.”

Drunk Man Bites Panda During Zoo Attack


In 2006, a drunk Chinese tourist bit a panda after he says it attacked him when he jumped in the animal's enclosure to give it a “hug,” according to the BBC.

The man said he drank four beers before entering the Beijing Zoo and decided to get up close and personal with Gu Gu the panda.

Gu Gu bit both of the man’s legs and he retaliated by biting the panda on the back in order to try and escape. The man claimed he did not know that pandas could be violent animals when surprised or provoked.

The panda was unharmed and the tourist was treated at a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Watch: Kids Have Fallen Into Gorilla Enclosures Before, But With Better Endings