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Florida 2-year-old rushed to hospital after rhino encounter at zoo

CNN — A 2-year-old girl was injured at a Florida zoo during a private rhino encounter experience, zoo officials said.

The toddler and her family were taking part Tuesday in a close-up experience with white rhinos at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida, when the girl came into contact with the animals.

The family of three was given access to feel and brush the rhinos while supervised by two zookeepers in an area of the zoo where they were separated from the animals only by steel posts. At some point, the toddler wedged through the posts and got into the rhinos’ yard, said Andrea Hill, the zoo’s marketing and communications director.

The posts are roughly 11 inches apart, Hill said.

As two female rhinos approached the toddler, the snout of one made contact with the child and she got bumped, Hill said.

The child’s father, who was holding on to her throughout the incident, quickly pulled her out and carried her to the front office, the zoo said. The girl was taken to a pediatric hospital. Details about the child’s injuries or condition were not immediately known.

The girl’s mother was also transported to a local hospital with an arm injury, Brevard Fire Rescue spokeswoman Caitlin Butler told CNN.

“Our No. 1 concern is the safety and welfare of our guests and our hearts go out to the family,” the zoo’s executive director, Keith Winsten, said. “Safety has always been of paramount importance to us.”

Rhino encounters have been suspended until a safety review is completed, zoo officials said in a statement.

The experience has been offered daily since 2009, and no other incidents have been reported, the zoo said.

The Brevard Zoo, which houses more than 900 animals, is about 55 miles southeast of Orlando.

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