July 26, 2013

Cat bites boy – thanks a lot ocelot!

By Sharon Rice, Editor, The Friday Flyer

In this image from the KTLA News interview, bite injuries from an ocelot can be seen on Ronald Alteneder's left hand and thumb.

Credit: Provided by Holly Altender

Holly Alteneder and her son, Ronald, are seen at Children's Hospital of Orange County where Ronald was being treated for an ocelot bite he received at a zoo in Belize, Central America.

Credit: Provided by Holly Altender

This ocelot at the Belize Zoo pulled Ronald's hand and arm through the wire enclosure.

Credit: Provided by Holly Altender


There was no 911 to call during a recent vacation when Holly Alteneder's 10 1/2-year-old son, Ronald, was bitten by a big cat ? an ocelot, to be exact ? at a small zoo in Belize. The quickest option for medical attention was a 40-minute ride to the nearest hospital in the zookeeper's car.

After initial treatment, Holly says she and her four sons cut short their plans for a six-week vacation to the Central American countries of Belize, Honduras and Guatemala to fly home to Southern California, where Ronald was admitted to Children's Hospital of Orange County.

He was still there three days later, when he and Holly were interviewed by KTLA News. At the time of the interview, Ronald was playing ping pong and wearing pajamas provided by the hospital ? ironically covered in cats. Cats are Ronald's obsession, Holly says.

With such an obsession, it's easy to see why the family was enjoying an unusual feature at the Belize Zoo and Education Center ? the opportunity for the family to be inside a cage within the jaguar habitat.

They had just been enjoying the antics of a jaguar around and on top of their cage when she heard her oldest son crying, "Mommy, Mommy, help me." She looked and saw that an ocelot (similar in appearance to a jaguar) had pulled Ronald's arm through the wire fence and wasn't letting go, no matter how much she pounded on the fencing. Another tourist joined the fray, as did the zookeeper.

When the ocelot released Ronald's hand, there were serious puncture wounds, especially around his thumb, which appeared to be almost severed. That's when Ronald and Holly and Ronald's younger brothers, Jude, Ion and Charley, began their urgent journey for medical attention.

Not only that, he earnestly desires to raise funds for the Belize Zoo so other children can enjoy the big cat habitat without experiencing what he endured. He thinks a glass partition, or at least a double or triple fence, would provide needed protection.

On Tuesday, Holly said Ronald is now home and doing better than expected. He is continuing to undergo a series of shots to prevent rabies.

She says she doesn't blame the zoo for the incident. She describe it as more of a rescue facility, unlike any American zoo she's ever seen. The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center sits on 29 acres of tropical savanna and exhibits more than 150 animals native to Belize. Founded in 1983 by Baltimore native Sharon Matola, the zoo keeps animals that have been orphaned, rescued, born at the zoo, rehabilitated or sent as donations from other zoological institutions.

Holly says Canyon Lakers can help Ronald reach his goal of helping the zoo by visiting belizezoo.org and making a donation. Ronald will be starting 6th grade at Canyon Lake Middle School in August. His brothers attend Tuscany Hills Elementary. See the video of the KTLA interview on The Friday Flyer's Facebook page.