Naples Zoo/Handout via Reuters
A critically endangered tiger that attacked a man at Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, located in Naples, Fla., is dead after police shot the animal on Wednesday evening.
Eko, a Malayan tiger, was 8 years old.
The man, who was left seriously injured from the attack, is in his 20s and is employed by a third-party service responsible for cleaning the gift shop and restrooms, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. He was not authorized to be near the tiger enclosure.
Police said that the man had been attempting to either pet or feed the animal when he put his arm through a second fence barrier. The tiger then grabbed the man’s arm and pulled it into the enclosure, the sheriff’s office said.
When the first deputy arrived on the scene, attempts to get the tiger to release the man’s arm from its mouth failed, said authorities, and “the deputy was forced to shoot the animal.”
The zoo has a trained shoot team and lead darter for daily crisis activity when the zoo is open, but the incident occurred when the zoo was closed, Courtney Jolly, Naples Zoo director of public relations and marketing, told reporters Thursday morning.
“At the end of the day, if a person is in imminent danger, they have to take that action,” Jolly said, “and we support CCSO [Collier County Sheriff’s Office] and the officer had to, unfortunately, do his job.”
Police released bodycam footage of the incident on Thursday.
Jolly said that the zoo has never had an incident like this before, and no one has ever breached the barrier fence and put themselves in that situation.
The zoo decided to close on Dec. 30 as investigations continue.
“We’re giving our staff some time to process what has happened, but also give them some time to start the grieving process and healing process,” Jolly said. “It is a very sad day at the zoo.”
Tien Le is an intern on NPR’s News Desk.