Staff at Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens is working to figure out how they can keep their workers safe after a zookeeper had a close call with a lion.
J.J. Vitale, the spokeswoman for Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, told Action News Jax there is no video of the incident.
She said the encounter happened between a zookeeper and the lion in the middle part of the exhibit, where there are no cameras.
Action News Jax Courtney Cole went down to the zoo on Wednesday to get answers about what happened.
Dan Maloney, the Deputy Zoo Director for Animal Care and Conversation for Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, told Action News Jax it’s tough to determine what to change -- in terms of [safety] protocol or procedures — because it was human error that led to the incident.
"We had a...very close call,” said Maloney.
On Wednesday morning, a zookeeper was servicing the yard in the lion exhibit, when one of the lions got inside the enclosed area.
"One of the lions was able to get in because that person left a door unsecured,” Maloney told Action News Jax.
While Maloney didn’t specify which door was left open, Action News Jax created a map to show you that there are at least two possible places the lion could have walked back into the exhibit.
One is underneath the elevated path, where visitors walk.
The second place is from a concrete building within the exhibit.
Maloney told Action News Jax, fortunately there was a second zookeeper nearby.
“The lion was moving pretty quickly towards that person. I wouldn't say it was charging, but it was moving pretty quickly,” said Maloney.
The second zookeeper was able to alert the zookeeper inside the exhibit.
"They turned to face the animal. Big cats tend to attack from behind,” Maloney told Action News Jax.
The zookeeper then jumped into the moat, because they knew lions don't like the water.
Maloney said the incident happened in less than two minutes.
The Jacksonville Zoo experienced a similar issue in June 2018, when 'Ali the elephant' wandered out of his enclosure. Maloney said this also happened due to human error.
"The one thing I would say, in both situations, it resolved fast and quickly and without an incident."