Jaguar that Attacked Trespassing Zoo Visitor Won’t Be Euthanized

For a better look at the jaguars at the Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park in Arizona, a woman named Leanne crossed over the three-foot-tall barricade that separates zoo visitors from the fenced exhibit.

This was, of course, a terrible idea. One female jaguar reached through the fence and took a swipe at Leanne, clawing her arm. Another zoo visitor got the jaguar to let go of Leanne’s arm by distracting it with a water bottle.

Leanne, who didn’t want to reveal her last name, was treated at a hospital and released. She told CBS News, “I never expected this.” (Really?!). “I feel like we’re all human, we make mistakes and I learned my lesson,” she said.

Contrary to previous news reports, she insisted she wasn’t taking a selfie and had not climbed over the barrier but merely leaned over it.

Fortunately, the jaguar, who did what any wild animal would do—especially one already stressed out from being in captivity—will not be euthanized.

Although Leanne apologized to the zoo and admitted she was in the wrong by crossing the barrier, she told CBS News the zoo should “look into moving their fence back. Anybody can reach out. I’m not the first, and if they don’t move the fence, I’m probably not going to be the last.”

She’s right about not being the first. Last summer, another potential Darwin Awards winner climbed over the same barricade to record a video. The same jaguar scratched him.

“Just one swipe with a paw can do a lot of damage,” Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), told CBS News. “It’s also really hard on the animal. It’s really stressful.”

Why do people put themselves and these animals at risk?

It could be because animals have become “less real” to us, according to Susan Clayton, professor of psychology and environmental studies at Ohio’s College of Wooster. People who get too close to wild animals have stopped associating them with danger, she told National Geographic. In managed settings, like zoos, they become harmless props to some people.

Social media has led some people to go to extremes to show the world more exciting versions of themselves, Erin Vogel, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychology at UC San Francisco, told National Geographic. She said it’s just not enough for those people to take a photo of animals from a safe distance; instead, they want to appear as if they’re part of the experience.

Zoos are part of the problem, Clayton pointed out, because they can “encourage the perspective that [animals] are there for us,” she told National Geographic. Due to that perspective, visitors don’t respect the animals as sentient beings.

The president of the HSUS echoed that in a statement about the jaguar incident. “When various types of exhibitors promote all sorts of close encounters with wildlife, people get the mistaken idea that wild animals are approachable,” Block said. “Throw in a healthy dose of poor judgement, and incidents like this are bound to happen.”

It’s very fortunate that Leanne and the jaguar both survived what could easily have been an entirely unnecessary tragedy. It’s unfortunate that other zoo animals have not been nearly so lucky.

Take Action!

One Care2 member has started a petition asking the World Wildlife Zoo to send the jaguar to a sanctuary so she can live in peace. “It’s clear that Sarah is not coping with her captive situation at Wildlife World Zoo. She needs to be relocated to a true sanctuary where she can live the rest of her life without any expectations placed upon her.”  If you agree, please sign and share her petition.

Photo credit: katerinavulcova


Angeles M
Angeles M2 days ago

Great news! Thank you

Susan Fong
Susan Fong2 days ago

I am so relieved that the jaguar will not be euthanized by the zoo. The human was clearly at fault.

K R2 days ago

I have become quite pessimistic and cynical in my old age, and treat the explanation by the Wildlife Zoo people about not euthanizing the Jag, in such 'loving tones' .... is only to keep the Zoo going with so many animals in captivity - which should not be the case at all. So let us not get carried away with this 'act of Charity' on the zoo's part to spare an animal's life but continue demanding that they should release all 'wild animals' back to their own environment.

oliver mally
oliver mally3 days ago

humans are stupid - animals pay the price!

Barbara S
Barbara S3 days ago


Edith B
Edith B3 days ago

Petition signed and shared.

Kristina G

Why was euthanizing the jaguar even an option? Since when wild animals are supposed to behave in front of the mighty human, and not attack? I was so relieved that it wasn't put down.

Jennifer H
Jennifer H6 days ago

People are so stupid and it's always the animal that pays the price. Thankfully, this zoo had common sense (this time).

Elisabeth T
Elisabeth T7 days ago

Great news, thanks for sharing.

Cathy B
Cathy B7 days ago

Good news, thank you.