Woman attacked by a jaguar while taking a photo apologizes to the Arizona zoo

Posted at 6:24 AM, Mar 11, 2019

A woman who was attacked by a jaguar at an Arizona zoo has apologized for the incident, according to a zoo spokeswoman.

The woman returned to the Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park following the attack and said she "feels horrible about the bad publicity the zoo is getting regarding the incident," spokeswoman Kristy Morcum said according to CNN affiliates KTVK and KPHO. Morcum said the woman apologized and admitted fault.

The zoo, citing witness accounts, has said the woman crossed over a barrier to get a photo and was attacked by a female jaguar.

The attack happened Saturday evening, said Shawn Gilleland of the Rural Metro Fire Department. The woman was injured and required medical attention, according to the fire department.

"The visitor sustained non-life threatening injuries to their arm from one of our female jaguars. At the request of the family, paramedics were called. At no time was the animal out of its enclosure ... please understand why barriers are put in place. Sending prayers to the family tonight," the zoo tweeted.

The woman, who is in her 30s, was taken to the hospital and is expected to survive, CNN affiliate KPHO reported. Citing the fire department, the affiliate said the woman was trying to take a selfie near the fence of the jaguar enclosure when the animal reached out and attacked her arm.

Witness describes horrifying attack

Adam Wilkerson said he was at the zoo with his family when someone came running around the corner yelling for help.

"Without thinking, I had no idea what I was going to see, I just ran over there," he said. "I saw the other girl up against the fence with her arm caught in the jaguar's claws."

Wilkerson said he was standing behind the woman, but didn't want to pull her off. "I could see the claws in her actual flesh," he said.

In an effort to distract the jaguar, Wilkerson said, his mother ran up behind him and shoved her water bottle through the cage. The bottle distracted the jaguar, and it let go of the victim.

"When my mom put the water bottle through the gate, the jaguar let go of the girl. And we pulled the girl back and she collapsed," he said.

In a 911 call obtained by CNN, a zoo employee can be heard saying the woman's arm was in "pretty bad shape."

"She's doing OK ... but her arm is like bad," the employee told the dispatcher. The employee also said the woman's arm had been under pressure.

"She's in pain, like really bad pain," the employee said.

Wilkerson did not see the actual attack and could not comment on how the victim got so close to the animal.

There were no employees nearby during the incident, Wilkerson said.

Wildlife World Zoo tweeted on Saturday that the jaguar would not be put down as a result of the incident.

"We can promise you nothing will happen to our jaguar," the zoo said. "She's a wild animal and there were proper barriers in place to keep our guests safe -- not a wild animal's fault when barriers are crossed. Still sending prayers to her and her family."

Litchfield Park is about 20 miles from Phoenix.