An employee was injured by a jaguar at the Greater Vancouver Zoo last month, according to WorkSafeBC, which said the incident had the potential for “serious injury.”
An inspection report obtained by CBC News, dated Dec. 13, 2021, says the worker was feeding the jaguar when it crawled up a metal feeding chute.
The jaguar “gripped” the worker’s hand in its mouth, according to the report.
Another worker used the end of a broom handle to pound on the door of the jaguar’s enclosure. The injured worker was then able to free their hand.
No information was provided about the severity of the injury.
WorkSafeBC said the zoo has since “weld[ed] bars in at the bottom of the feeding chute to mitigate the risk of a similar incident.”
The zoo is required to fully investigate the incident and report back to WorkSafeBC by Monday.
The zoo hasn’t responded to CBC’s request for comment.
According to the zoo’s website, two black jaguars, brothers Jasper and Loki, aged two, live at the zoo.
The zoo’s website and social media posts describe jaguars as the largest cats in the Americas — with the strongest bite force of any big cat, relative to their size — that can pierce thick skin and bones with ease.
“These types of injuries are always a risk when working with wild animals that are in captivity … and are often not public knowledge,” Sara Dubois, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia in applied biology, told CBC News.
Dubois has conducted investigations into incidents involving exotic and captive species.
“Keeping carnivores or large predators like jaguars and tigers and lions, these animals always pose a significant risk to handlers as well as the public,” said Dubois.
Feeding the jaguar through a feeding chute “does not allow a predator to express their natural hunting behaviour,” said Emily Pickett, a campaign director with the Vancouver Humane Society.
“The jaguar climbing the chute is natural behaviour for a big cat, as he is exhibiting a desire to hunt for his food.”
It was not the first animal attack at the Aldergrove, B.C., zoo.
In August 2019, a child visiting the zoo was bitten by a black bear and airlifted to hospital in serious condition.
Officials said the girl had crossed a safety barrier and stuck her arm through a chainlink fence.
The zoo has also faced years of criticism from advocates over conditions at the facility.
In a 2019 report, the Humane Society recommended it move away from keeping wild, exotic animals.
In April 2020, the zoo’s general manager told CBC News it was planning a multi-million dollar revamp of the park over the next few years to move away from small enclosures, converting half its space into a “safari-style park for animals from across the world.”
The zoo said it cares for “rescued, donated and orphaned animals,” including a Siberian tiger, reindeer, camels, black bears and grizzly bears.