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Family says child scratched by falling iguana at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Posted: 5:30 PM, Sep 06, 2017
Updated: 2017-09-07 00:53:56Z

A family claims a reptile at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium scratched their daughter.    

The little girl was with her parents at the zoo on Aug. 26 when they say a large iguana cut her. 

"She just was screaming, and she said 'lizard hurt me,' " Sara Bailey said. 

Sara Bailey says the lizard landed on her 3-year-old daughter, Charlee, scratching the child's face, arm and leg.

"We don't know if he purposefully fell on her, or if he slipped and fell on her, but he got her whole right side," Bailey said. "I had to step over the lizard, and he was probably about 4 feet long — a pretty big guy."

Charlee was treated at the zoo's First Aid Center and then taken to Children's Hospital in Omaha where the scratches were cleaned. 

"She said it stung, and it hurt so bad," Bailey said. "That's all she kept saying."

Bailey said the wounds are healing, but says her daughter is still shaken up. 

"The very first night was bad. She woke up with nightmares, screaming," Bailey said, and the girl is still hesitant about future trips to the zoo.

"She doesn't want to go to the zoo anymore — she'll tell us 'no,' " Bailey said.  

The family said they're sharing their story as a cautionary tale. 

"I was pretty upset — this shouldn't have happened. There are free-roaming animals at the zoo. So everybody needs to be careful," Bailey said. 

The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium released this statement in part:

"Guest safety is a very high priority at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium; therefore, the iguana has been moved into an exhibit with barriers, where it is no longer free-roaming." 

Zoo officials say incidents like these are a very rare occurrence. 

The following is the zoo's full statement, issued Wednesday:

"On Saturday, August 26th Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium was alerted that two Zoo and Aquarium guests were scratched by a free roaming green iguana in the Lied Jungle. They were immediately taken to the First Aid Station where they were treated by a nurse and released that same day. 

Guest safety is a very high priority at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, therefore, the iguana has been moved into an exhibit with barriers where it is no longer free roaming. The iguana has been in the Lied Jungle since December 2016. In general, green iguanas are not an aggressive species. This type of lizard is an herbivore, which means its diet is primarily vegetarian. 

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium has many free roaming animals throughout Zoo grounds and incidents like these are a very rare occurrence. The Zoo and Aquarium has policies, drills and staff in place to both prevent and react to incidents. The First Aid Station is open during peak hours with a Children's Hospital nurse on staff. The Zoo and Aquarium also has EMT trained employees staffed at all times. 

One of only 230 Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium conducts quarterly animal, fire, weather, medical and evacuation-related drills in compliance with AZA-accreditation standards to ensure the safety and security of its guests, employees and animals. 

-Dan Cassidy, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium's General Curator"