Report Clears Zoo in Tiger's Attack, Death

Florida man survived, but the animal didn't
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 30, 2021 12:23 PM CST
Updated Feb 3, 2022 6:50 PM CST

Update: A zoo in Naples, Florida, is not to blame for a tiger's attack that ended with the animal shot to death, a state investigation has found. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said that River Rosenquist, 26, ignored clear signs and barriers to reach into the tiger's enclosure, USA Today reports, which led to the tiger grabbing the man's arm. Rosenquist was a contract cleaner who was not allowed into the animal enclosures. His left arm was so severely injured that doctors amputated it. Our original story from Dec. 30 follows:

A cleaner at a Florida zoo who wasn't supposed to be near the tiger enclosure was seriously injured after he entered a restricted area, authorities say. Police say a Malayan tiger at Naples Zoo grabbed the man's arm after he "traversed an initial fence barrier" after the zoo had closed for the day and reached through another fence, ABC reports. "Preliminary information indicates that the man was either petting or feeding the animal, both of which are unauthorized and dangerous activities," the Collier County Sheriff's office said in a statement.

The sheriff's office said the first deputy at the scene "kicked the enclosure and tried to get the tiger to release the man’s arm from its mouth but the deputy was forced to shoot the animal." The wounded tiger, an 8-year-old male named Eko, retreated to the back of the enclosure after it was shot, the sheriff's office said. The zoo later confirmed that Eko had died. The zoo said the cleaning service the man works for was hired to clean restrooms and the gift shop, not animal enclosures. Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers confirmed that the injured man had arrived via medical helicopter.

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Eko—the zoo's only tiger—was welcomed as "a great ambassador for his species" when he arrived in February last year, the New York Times reports. In a blog post, the zoo noted that Malayan tigers are critically endangered, with fewer than 200 left in the wild, and said it hoped that when guests see him, "they fall in love and want to learn how they can do their part to save his cousins in the wild." (More tigers stories.)

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