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Florida Man vs. Florida Tiger: Tiger Shot and Killed After Attacking Zoo Worker

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NAPLES, Fla.—Sheriff’s deputies rushed to the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens on Wednesday, December 29th in response to news of a tiger attack.

According to Fort Meyers affiliate WINK-TV, the deputies arrived following a 6:26 PM call reporting an incident involving a third-party maintenance worker and the zoo’s eight-year-old Malayan tiger, Eko.

Police arrived to find the man with his arm inside of the tiger’s mouth. The first deputy to arrive “kicked the enclosure and tried to get the tiger to release the man’s arm.” 

Unfortunately, this method proved ineffective, and deputies were forced to shoot the tiger. 

The Naples Zoo states that the man “traversed an initial fence barrier,” into a restricted area and “put his arm through the fencing” of Eko’s habitat. 

According to initial reports, Eko then grabbed the man by the arm and pulled the limb through the fence, trapping him. 

The man, an unidentified individual in his twenties, worked for a third-party cleaning service contracted by the Naples Zoo to clean the restrooms and gift shop.

Following the attack, paramedics rushed the man to a nearby hospital where his condition has reportedly stabilized.

Malayan tigers are critically endangered. Only about 200 remain in the wild. These tigers are usually smaller than their mainland counterparts. 

Like other tigers, Malayan tigers are shy, solitary animals. Commercial poaching, along with habitat loss and fragmentation threaten the species’ survival.

Following the tiger attack in Collier county, ER physician and wildlife medicine expert Benjamin Abo conducted an interview with WINK explaining the medical side of tiger attacks.

The force of a tiger’s bite equals about one-thousand pounds per square inch, Abo explains. Tiger-bite injuries can go beyond lacerations—a tiger’s jaws are strong enough to crush bones. 

According to Abo, time is crucial when treating tiger-bite victims. Blood loss and shock are life-threatening conditions. 

He also says that depending on the nature of the injuries, the man may be in danger of losing his arm. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell the man’s prognosis without more detail on the extent of his injuries, Abo says.

“When you’re talking about an encounter with a large cat like this, and any extremity, you’re definitely always at risk of losing that extremity,” he elaborates. 

“The injuries and that can be from damage that just couldn’t be controlled, to later on infection that would set in several days down the line.”

Dr. Abo was familiar with Eko the tiger; he’d met the animal and expressed grief surrounding his death.

“When I heard of the news of what happened. I shed tears,” Abo said. “It’s very sad what happened to the tiger. It’s sad that anyone would have a negative encounter with such wonderful wildlife.”

Despite the animal’s potential deadliness, tiger attacks are rare in the wild. Wild tigers are shy and reclusive, preying primarily on deer, pigs, and occasionally livestock.

Most recorded attacks involve captive tigers. Notable tiger attacks include the 2003 incident involving Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy. 

The famous illusionists were in the middle of a Las Vegas show when one of their iconic white tigers, the 400-pound Montecore, bit Horn.

Montecore then dragged Horn off stage to the gasps and screams of 1,500 audience members.

The attack famously ended Siegfried and Roy’s wildly successful Las Vegas stage show. Montecore the tiger lived for eleven years after the attack and passed away in 2014.

Shows like Tiger King have only deepened the presence of tigers in the popular imagination. However,  it’s important to remember that tigers are wild animals that require specialized care and handling. 

Otherwise, as the tragic story of Eko illustrates, the consequences can be deadly for man and tiger alike.

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