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Child injured after falling into rhino exhibit at Florida zoo

CBS News logo CBS News 1/2/2019 Stefan Becket
a group of sheep standing on top of a wooden fence: The rhinoceros enclosure at Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida. © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. The rhinoceros enclosure at Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida.

A 2-year-old girl is recovering in the hospital after stumbling into a rhinoceros exhibit at a Florida zoo and coming into contact with one of the animals, officials said Tuesday.

Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida, said the girl was taking part in a "hands-on, educational experience" with the zoo's southern white rhinos when he or she apparently fell between steel poles separating guests from the rhino yard. The zoo is about 50 miles southeast of Orlando.

In a statement, the zoo said "the snout of at least one of rhinoceroses made contact with the child." Spokesman Elliot Zirulnik told CBS affiliate WKMG-TV the snout is defined as the area below the animal's horn.

The girl was rescued and taken to the Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando, WKMG reported. The child's mother was also transported to a local hospital for unspecified treatment.

In a statement released by the hospital later Tuesday, the girl's father said she is "doing well" and the mother had been treated and released. The family asked for privacy following what the father called a "trying day."

"Our number one 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 and we are suspending these encounters until we have thoroughly reviewed our processes and procedures to ensure this cannot happen again."

The zoo said the "Rhino Encounters" had been held daily without incident for about a decade.

Brevard Zoo is home to four southern white rhinos, including two males and two females, according to its website. Frankie, a 16-year-old, 5,200 pound male, arrived at the zoo in October.

Officials told WKMG the rhinoceros involved won't be punished in any way.

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