West News Wire: Authorities have said that a maintenance worker who entered an unapproved area of a Florida zoo and was assaulted by a tiger may face criminal prosecution. In order to remove the victim from the tiger’s jaws, the officials shot and killed the beast.
The event occurred after the Naples Zoo had closed to the public on Wednesday, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the sheriff’s office, a member of a cleaning firm hired by the zoo to clean facilities and the gift shop but not the animal enclosures “entered an unapproved area near a tiger that was within its enclosure.”
The man, identified by authorities as 26-year-old River Rosenquist of Naples, was possibly petting or feeding a male Malayan tiger, “both of which are unauthorized and dangerous activities,” when the attack occurred, the sheriff’s office said.
“Initial reports indicate that the tiger grabbed the man’s arm and pulled it into the enclosure after the man traversed an initial fence barrier and put his arm through the fencing of the tiger enclosure,” the office said.
Rosenquist called 911 to request help, according to the sheriff’s office. A deputy responded to the zoo around 6:30 p.m. and found the man with his arm in the tiger’s mouth. The deputy kicked the enclosure in an attempt to get the tiger to release the arm, but was “forced” to shoot the animal, authorities said.
“Our deputy did everything he could do in that situation and he ultimately made the only possible decision he could in order to save this man’s life,” Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said in a statement Thursday. “This was a tragic encounter at our world-class zoo facility. We value our community partnership with the Naples Zoo and their focus on conservation and education.”
The cleaner suffered serious injuries and was transported to an area hospital, authorities said. Lee Memorial Hospital Emergency Department confirmed to ABC News it had received a patient via medical helicopter from Naples with injuries related to a tiger attack.
The Malayan tiger, which is a critically endangered species, was killed in the shooting, according to a spokesperson for the zoo. The animal retreated to the back of the enclosure after it was shot and a drone that authorities flew inside showed it was unresponsive.
A veterinarian sedated the animal and examined it “when it [was] safe to do so,” and determined the tiger had died, the sheriff’s office said.
The sheriff’s office said Thursday it is working with state and federal prosecutors to investigate the “serious encounter” and determine whether criminal charges will be filed against Rosenquist.
The zoo will be conducting its own investigation, officials said.
The 8-year-old tiger, whose identity has been confirmed by the Naples Zoo, arrived in December 2019 from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and was unveiled in February 2020. “Eko is a fantastic representative of his kind. When visitors see him, we hope they fall in love with him and want to understand how they can help conserve his wild cousins.
According to the zoo’s website, the zoo closed on Thursday and will reopen on Friday. According to zoo officials, a conservation fund will be established in Eko’s name.
“We appreciate our community’s patience as well as the letters and words of encouragement and support that have been pouring in,” the zoo added.