One of the greatest questions of our time, something truly unanswerable and impossible to imagine the consequences of, is: “what could possibly go wrong if I stick my hand into a big cat enclosure and taunt a jaguar?”.
A man from Florida took it upon himself to decipher the riddle, and reportedly stuck his hand into the jaguar enclosure in Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Florida on August 3. The big cat responded as most big cats would when confronted with an uninvited stranger in its territory and clawed his arm, leaving behind a trail of blood and a wounded man, reports WJXT News4Jax. The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department responded to the incident, before the individual, said to be in his 20s, was transported to a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
According to local news outlets, the incident occurred after the man climbed over the safety barrier of the Range of the Jaguar exhibit, seeking a more intimate interaction with the jaguar. Still not close enough, the man proceeded to reportedly stick his hand through the second barrier, this time a fence, and taunted the cat.
“This is an individual that wasn’t using his head,” deputy zoo director Dan Maloney said. “He stuck his hand in through the mesh that separates the jaguars from the outside.”
The jaguar was identified as a 12-year-old male named Harry. According to the zoo, this is the same jaguar that was involved in the death of a female jaguar, the zoo's oldest, in February.
The zoo said this was the first time a person had been injured since the jaguar exhibit opened 11 years ago, and that it would not be taking any action against Harry.
“He was acting as part of his normal behavior for a wild animal,” zoo marketing director Kelly Rouillard told Florida Times-Union. “We expect that type of behavior from wild animals and nothing will happen to him.”
The man himself claimed he had dropped his cellphone into the enclosure and wished to retrieve it, but a video captured by zoo officials saw him waving at the animal to get its attention and stating the jaguar “seemed cool”. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens do not intend to press charges.
There's a reason people love to go to zoos and see exotic animals. But even zookeepers will tell you, never forget, even if they were born and raised in captivity, these are not domesticated animals.