Al Ain: A fire extinguisher may have saved the lives of two big cat keepers at Al Ain Zoo on Sunday when it was discharged to scare off a jaguar that attacked them after a cage door was left open.
Both zookeepers — an African and an Asian man — were injured in the attack. They were rushed to Al Ain Hospital and are now making a full recovery with one man already discharged. The second is expected to be discharged on Thursday.
At no point during the incident was the public in danger, according to zoo authorities.
The incident is believed to have occurred due to human error when an interior cage door was left open, contravening the zoo’s strict safety protocols.
Both keepers were said to be experienced members of staff, but it was implied that there may have been a misjudgement on checking door security.
Ghanem Mubarak Al Hajeri, director general of Al Ain Zoo said: “We are investigating the incident to determine its causes and make the necessary recommendations.”
The quick reaction of fellow zookeepers - who used a fire extinguisher to frighten the animal - is thought to have saved the pair, who were next to the jaguar’s cage when the incident occurred.
One of the zookeepers managed to escape quickly, while the second had to be rescued by the other zookeepers.
“Safety of our employees is our top priority as well as the safety of the animal itself,” said a zoo official.
“Our staff are obtaining skills and methods on how to deal with animals in case of danger or attack and this is one of the methods used to maintain safety,” added the official in reference to the fire extinguisher.
“Each animal has a different number of doors depending on the type of animal and the potential danger it poses. They are interior and external doors. The incident happened when one of the interior doors was unintentionally left open.
“Our staff has experience in dealing with animals and we send them to different countries to take training courses,” added the official.
This is the first incident to have occurred at the zoo in over a decade.
Al Ain Zoo has been accepted as a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, a position that reflects the zoo’s success in meeting the highest international standards of animal care and conservation.
Opened in 1968, the zoo underwent major refurbishment last year and houses 4,000 animals across 200 species.
Information on the zoo’s website stated that a jaguar’s jaws are so powerful that they can crush the skull of an animal with one bite.
In a statement on the incident, Ganem Al Hajeri, director-general of Al Ain Zoo, said: “We are all most thankful that our two keepers are safe and recovering in hospital with one discharged and the other soon to be. Our staff are reviewing this incident and will make recommendations if required.”