Child (2) and mother recovering after tapir attack at Dublin Zoo

All supervised animal encounters to cease at zoo as investigation takes place

A two-year-old child is recovering in hospital after being attacked by an animal within one of the enclosures at Dublin Zoo.

The little girl was attacked by a Brazilian tapir during one of the zoo’s “regular supervised animal visits”.

The child’s mother was also injured as she went to the aid of her child. The Dublin Zoo first aid team went to the scene immediately and attended to both the child and her mother. The child was taken to Temple Street Children’s Hospital while her mother was brought to the Mater hospital.

They are both recovering, according to a statement from the zoo, which has described the incident as “an unfortunate accident”.

The zoo has ceased all supervised animal encounters for the time being.

“Management at the zoo has launched an investigation into this regrettable occurrence and is reviewing all of its procedures with respect to supervised animal visits,” a spokeswoman for the zoo said.

“Dublin Zoo would like to underline this was very much an isolated incident. We would also like to emphasise that our immediate concern is the health and wellbeing of the visitors involved in this accident.

“The staff of Dublin Zoo is deeply upset by this incident and we reiterate strongly that their upmost concern lies with the visitors and their speedy recovery.”

The tapir is a relative of the horse and rhinoceros, and the Brazilian tapir is one of four species of tapir in the world. It can weigh up to 250kg, measure two metres in length and has a long, flexible snout that helps collect leaves, shoots, fruit and small branches to eat - making them important seed dispersers.

Tapirs have sharp teeth and while they are said to be docile while in captivity, they are territorial and can become quite aggressive if they perceive a threat. Experts have said their aggressiveness may be linked to their poor vision.

Speaking on RTÉ radio this morning, vet Pete Wedderburn said tapirs are usually very gentle animals, but not when they are with their young.

“When a mother has hormones coursing through her veins, she’s becomes very different. Their personality can become completely unlike what they were before,” he said.