The man who jumped into Auckland Zoo’s rhino enclosure made a silly and dangerous decision and is lucky to be alive, a zoologist says.
Mark Vette said the man put himself in real danger from the rhinos.
“People just don’t realise they’re very fast, they’ve got poor vision, they’ve got good smell, they’re two-and-a-half tonnes, they’ve got a big point on their head and they can kill you.
“It’s a bit like getting in with a two-and-a-half-tonne bus with a big point on its front potentially running at you.”
Video emerged online today of the zoo visitor, who had breached the barriers at Auckland Zoo’s African enclosure, bathing in the water alongside a rhinoceros and her calf.
Vette said the man not only put himself at risk.
“He put the animal at risk too, of being shot, or somehow restrained, or it getting out.”
The rhinos were understandably startled by the intruder and moved quickly to the far end of the enclosure, where zookeepers were able to hold them safely while the incident was resolved.
A shocked eyewitness told the Herald how the event unfolded, which led to the man being swiftly removed by zoo staff and taken away by police.
A police spokesperson said the man is no longer in custody and charges are not likely.
“You saw him walking towards the bottom of the enclosure where we stood and the rhinos were running about quite rapidly,” the witness said.
“[I] think everyone assumed they were playing and that’s why we were watching till the man then walked over.
“Still people were murmuring thinking that he was a zookeeper until he got in the water and went swimming.
“Then a crowd just formed watching until the zookeepers came and cleared the area and got him out.”
After being removed by zoo staff, the man was taken into custody, police said.
“No injuries were reported in relation to this incident to the individual or animals.”
Footage shows the man swimming in the enclosure, oblivious to the danger.
He is seen washing his face and head as well as floating in the water, while a large crowd of visitors watches.
Small children can be seen watching the man frolicking in the water.
Auckland Council said zoo staff “quickly and safely” resolved the incident.
Auckland Zoo director Kevin Buley said he was “extremely proud” of the way his staff responded.
“They were on the scene immediately and managed to very swiftly, professionally and safely deal with the incident.
“We are all very relieved that there were no injuries to either the animals or people as a result of what happened this morning.”