A young boy fell into a cheetah pit at a Cleveland zoo Saturday afternoon after his mother dangled him over the railing and he slipped from her hands, authorities said.
The boy injured his leg, but was otherwise mostly unharmed. Zoo officials said the cheetahs never approached the toddler, 2-years-old, or his parents, who jumped in to rescue him.
Firefighters and paramedics were called to the scene, however, the boy had been pulled to safety by the time they had arrived.
The boy was taken to MetroHealth Medical Center to be treated for minor bumps and bruises sustained from the fall, Cleveland Fire Department spokesman Larry Gray said.
Fox 8 in Cleveland said the mother would be charged with child endangerment.
The close-call at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo shocked and horrified witnesses who heard screams after the boy slipped from his mother’s grasp and fell 10 feet.
“You just hear these screams, then all you could see is the adult that jumped in, got the child and then somebody pulled him out,” one witness told Fox8. “It was a heavier-set guy with the kid. They started screaming and that’s when they started blocking everybody off.
The zoo’s executive director, Chris Kuhar, said the mother is at fault for the incident.
“Unfortunately, we have a number of eyewitness accounts that point to the strong likelihood that the child was dangled over the railing,” Kuhar said.
He told Fox8 the cheetahs “made no attempt to interact” with the child or his parents at any time.
A Cleveland Fire Department spokesperson told the Cleveland Plain Dealer the mother was holding another child when the boy slipped from her hands.
The Cleveland zoo closed the cheetah exhibit for the remainder of the day following the incident and said it would press charges against the toddler’s mother for endangering his welfare.