‘He's got me': Rhino flung Florida zookeeper with horn, state report says

“He’s got me.”

That’s what a Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens zookeeper told state investigators her co-worker said before a rhinoceros “flung her into the air” with his horn.

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WJAX-TV got hold of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's investigative report Friday, more than a week after that Jacksonville zookeeper was hospitalized with a broken rib.

FWC investigators found no violations and said the public was never in danger.

For the first time, WJAX-TV got a view behind the scenes at the rhino chute, where training for medical procedures reportedly went wrong.

“The keepers train them to be comfortable in the chute and to tolerate medical procedures like blood draws,” said Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens Executive Director Tony Vecchio.

The only witness, another zookeeper performing the rhino training, told FWC the incident lasted about 10 seconds.

The report said the zookeeper was crouching and reaching her arm into the rhino chute to feed Archie a reward.

That’s when Archie got spooked.

“He hit her right here and kind of pulled her in. And a rhino, you know, when their head is up in the air, they’re this high off the ground. If he just lifted his head, she would have already been 6 feet up in the air,” said Vecchio.

Vecchio said rhinos are nearsighted, which can make them jumpy, but the 50-year-old southern white rhino is known for being calm.

Vecchio said he plans to re-educate the staff who work with rhinos on proper procedures.

He said the zookeeper who was injured is out of the hospital and recovering at home.

“I know she’s feeling much better and kind of eager to get back to work,” said Vecchio. “She’ll probably be a little sore for a while.”

Vecchio wants to reassure Archie’s fans that there are no plans to get rid of the rhino.

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