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Young child dies at US zoo

Wild dogs allegedly mauled a young child to death at a zoo in the US city of Pittsburgh, after he fell over a railing -- and off a mesh barrier -- into the exhibit

"It is with heavy hearts we report that a tragic accident occurred Sunday at 11:45 a.m. when a young child fell into the African painted dog exhibit and was killed," the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium said in a statement.

A keeper succeeded in getting seven of the eleven dogs off the exhibit while a representative from the veterinarian department attempted to keep the animals away from the child by shooting darts into the space, the statement said.

"Unfortunately the dogs were in pack mentality and not responding," the statement said.

Keepers -- who entered the enclosure to lure away the dogs -- failed to reach the child.

A police officer shot and killed one "aggressive" dog.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the child was a boy of about three. It quoted zoo president Barbara Baker as saying he was on an outing with his mother when he fell over a railing -- and off a mesh barrier -- into the exhibit.

The incident is under investigation by both the zoo and police.

According to the Wildlife Conservation Network, the painted dog, also known as the African wild dog, has drastically dwindled in numbers due to human encroachment. It estimates that currently only 3,000 remain.

The zoo's website says the dogs -- described as hunters whose prey include antelope, zebras and gazelles -- are the size of medium domestic dogs.

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