A Texas woman says she was attacked by a lemur at Austin Aquarium

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Charmaine Dickerson’s trip to her boyfriend ended in pain – and she’s considering a lawsuit.

“I remember looking down and blood was dripping from my face,” she said.

According to Dickerson, the perpetrator was a lemur at the Austin Aquarium in Austin, Texas. According to the aquarium’s website, the location is one of two in the United States where guests can interact with lemurs.

Dickerson said she signed up for an “animal encounter” where she was told she could pet a lemur under the supervision of a handler.

“I’ll probably take two steps in, the lemur staggers toward me,” she said. “It lands on my shoulder. I turned my face. On this side there is a bite and then a scratch. I just felt like I was bleeding.”

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The aquarium told KXAN News in Austin in a statement that it is conducting an internal investigation to gather more information and find out to prevent future incidents.

“More than a million people visit our facility every year. “During that time, we have had a minimal number of people who have had any incident, such as being pinched or scratched by an animal we have on site,” the statement said. “We would like to point out that in the past we have found that this is typically due to a lack of guests not following the clear USDA guidelines that we provide at the beginning of each animal encounter by our trained staff… We would like to express our sincere thoughts, we want everyone to be safe.”

Inspection history of the aquarium

The Austin Aquarium is a for-profit aquarium – and therefore does not need to be accredited with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

However, it is overseen by the US Department of Agriculture.

According to a USDA report, the agency has warned the aquarium about animal handling on two separate occasions. The violation was as follows:

During the public exhibition, each animal must be treated in such a way that the risk is minimal
Harm to the animal and the public, with sufficient distance and/or barriers in between
the animal and the general public to ensure the safety of the animals and
the public.

Searching the facility’s USDA inspection reports, KXAN News found several inspection reports detailing issues related to “animal handling”.

An August 2022 inspection report stated that “a boy was bitten on the hand by an adult female Kinkajou during an animal encounter.”

According to the aquarium, its “animals are exotic and we have the utmost care, regulation and policy in place.” We are proud to offer all guests these hands-on experiences to inspire future generations to understand the importance of conservation to the planet is that we share.”

In 2019 KXAN reported on a family suing the Austin Aquarium after a lemur allegedly bit a little girl.

KXAN News spoke to the girl’s father, Vikas Dumra, after the incident.

“When the session ended and she was on her way, one of the lemurs that was actually sitting on her shoulder just jumped up and my daughter bent down a little bit and then she got bitten,” Dumra told im Year 2019. “Of course I went to the reception. I said, “Hey, that happened. Should I submit an incident report? How is the process?’ They were pretty casual about the whole thing and said: “Hey, why doesn’t she just wash it off with some soap and water?”

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, in turn, does that not The management of this particular facility discourages hands-on encounters with lemurs.

PETA sent a statement to KXAN saying the organization had notified local authorities of the incident.

The aquarium said it has “one of the largest populations of endangered ring-tailed lemurs and has a very successful breeding program to do our part to help prevent their extinction.”

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