Gorilla throws block of wood at pregnant woman’s head in New Orleans zoo

Harry Cockburn

A gorilla in a zoo in New Orleans launched a piece of wood at a visitor, striking them in the head and knocking them to the ground.

34-year-old Sylvia Cressy, who is six months pregnant, said she and other visitors at the zoo attempted to flee before the primate launched the missile, but was hit in the back of the head while trying to cover her face.

Officials at Audubon zoo described the incident as a “freak accident”, and said they are investigating a female gorilla named Praline.

Ms Cressy told WWL TV, “Everybody started scattering, like running, so I tried to cover my face, then as I was turning around, the thing just hit my head. The stick, the wood put a lump on my head."

“When it hit me, I kind of blanked out,” Cressy said. “It really took the wind out of me and I fell on my belly. As I regained consciousness, I was just worried about my baby.”

The zoo explained that the piece of wood was a toy or “enrichment tool” full of honey, raisins and other treats for the three gorillas in the enclosure.

Praline,a 20-year-old lowland gorilla, threw a piece of wood at fleeing visitors at a zoo in New Orleans (Audubon Nature Institute/YouTube)

In a statement, the zoo said: “Our animals receive enrichment tools daily. Enrichment at AZA-accredited zoos across the country typically includes new food items, objects to manipulate, and activities designed to provide our animals with opportunities to express natural, species-appropriate behaviors, whether it be foraging, exploring, playing, or other activities.”

“This particular enrichment item was a small piece of wood with small holes for food and treats such as honey and raisins.”

The statement added: “Praline is safely in her habitat at the Zoo. The safety of our animals and guests are our primary concern. We are examining how this happened and will quickly address any concerns.”

Ms Cressy spent six hours in two different hospitals, CBS news reports, and said she was not happy with the level of medical attention she was given at the zoo.

According to the zoo, Ms Cressy was offered an ambulance to take her to hospital, which she declined.

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