circus tiger

Circus trainers are rarely attacked by tigers because good trainers build trust with their animals. Nonetheless attacks do occur. A circus tiger once grabbed its trainer by the neck and dragged him around the ring until he was dead with a crushed trachea and esophagus and other massive wounds to the neck. The tiger was apparently provoked by a brand new yellow suit worn by the trainer.

One animal trainer told the Washington Post that he was nearly killed by a tiger that suddenly stopped doing his jumping routine in practice and leaped on the trainer and knocked him to the ground. “I was in a state of shock,” the trainer said. “I could hear my bones being crushed and my flesh being torn. Thanks to God or my genes, I never lost consciousness. I screamed the tiger’s name and he turned me lose.” With broken bones, blood pouring from a punctured artery, and skin from his arm hanging down to his fingers the trainer managed to get outside the cage and close the door before the tiger attacked again.

In December 2005, AP reported: Visitors to the Bloemfontein Zoo in South Africa saw more than they had bargained for. A man was found dead in the tiger's enclosure, with bite marks at the back of his neck and all his clothes torn off. Although they had recently been fed and did not devour the victim, the tigers had mauled the man and dragged him through the water.Police believe "the man was involved in a robbery and was chased by security guards. He had nowhere to go so he jumped over the zoo fence," according to Elsa Gerber, a police spokesperson. [Source: AP, December 18, 2005]

Captive Tiger Attacks in Thailand

zoo tiger

In 1998, The Times reported: A British wildlife expert is being sought by police in Thailand after a boy aged five had his arm ripped off by a tiger that had been adopted by animal lovers in Britain. Police in Chachoengsao, east of Bangkok, said that Timothy Redford, a representative of the charity Care for the Wild International, was wanted on a charge of negligence. The charity insisted that Mr Redford, a former safari park keeper, had no responsibility for the management of the tigers. The police have also ordered the closure of the compound, promoted in Care for the Wild fundraising literature as Tiger Mountain 2.The tiger, called Max, is one of two animals that been used in advertisements to raise money to help to save tigers from extinction. Police have already arrested a Thai businessman and a young boy keeper, who have been jointly feeding the tigers, and released them on bail of the equivalent of £600 each. [Source: Andrew Drummond, Times of London, 1998]

The police said that all parties responsible for the tigers would have to pay compensation to the boy for his injuries. Care for the Wild International first started raising funds for the two tigers in 1995, asking the public to adopt them by sending a cheque for £14.95 each - £10 of which would go directly to tiger welfare. An advertisement in the magazine BBC Wildlife said: "Sheba [the other tiger] was only a few days old when she was found close to the rotting and dismembered carcass of its mother ... the Tiger Adoption Programme provides Sheba with food, shelter and attendants to watch over her as well as financing the rescue of any other unfortunate orphans." Chris Jordan, managing director of Care for the Wild, said yesterday that the charity had no jurisdiction over the tigers. "Responsibility rests with the landowner and the Royal Forestry Department of Thailand." Mr Redford had acted as a consultant to the charity.

In January, 1999, Reuters reported: “Four tame but hungry tigers attacked and killed their keeper in a private restaurant cum zoo in northern Thailand, police said on Thursday. The tigers at Baan Sua (Tiger House) restaurant, about 500 miles north of Bangkok in Phrae province, had not been fed for days because the restaurant's business had slumped, a local police spokesman said. The tigers killed the keeper, Ya Fu, on Wednesday as he was working with them in their cage. Other workers subdued the animals after the attack. "The tigers were apparently starving due to the poor performance of the restaurant lately,'' the police spokesman said. Baan Sua has 10 tigers, birds and several other animals in its mini-zoo, which it uses to attract tourists. But few customers have come to the restaurant in the past six months, police said. The provincial authorities had ordered the restaurant's license revoked, they added. [Source: Reuters, January 21, 1999]

Captive Tiger Attacks in China

In February 2001, The Telegraph reported: “A young zoo keeper in the eastern Chinese city of Jinan was mauled to death by a tiger after apparently defecating on it in a prank which went badly wrong. Evidence at the scene, including lavatory paper, excrement and a loosened trouser belt, suggested that Xu Xiaodong, 18, had climbed on the tiger cage at the animal park where he worked and relieved himself over four Bengal tigers. Officials believe that he either slipped or was dragged in by an angry tiger. [Source: David Rennie, Electronic Telegraph, February 22, 2001

In February 2012, AFP reported: “A group of tourists visiting a wildlife park in eastern China had a narrow escape after Bengal tigers attacked their bus, puncturing its tyres and destroying the windscreen, state media said. A worker in charge of the enclosure at Jinan Wildlife World in Shandong province was at lunch when the incident happened last Saturday and it took officials 10 minutes to open a gate so the tourists could escape, reports said. [Source: AFP, February 7, 2012 ]

“None of the 27 tourists on the bus were injured, but the driver's hand was hurt when the tigers jumped on the vehicle and broke the windscreen, the official Xinhua news agency said. Terrified visitors hid under their seats as a group of up to eight tigers bit the vehicle's tyres, destroyed its windshield wipers and broke windows, the Global Times reported. Attempts to call police failed because there was no mobile phone reception, it added. "We are deeply sorry for the accident," Wu Yanfei, deputy manager of Jinan Wildlife World, was quoted by Xinhua as saying. The park has launched an investigation into the attack and compensated the tourists, Xinhua said.

A number of attacks on humans by captive tigers have been reported in recent years. Last year, a tour bus driver was mauled to death by a Siberian tiger at a breeding centre in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang after he got out of his vehicle to check on a mechanical problem. In 2010, a zoo keeper was killed by a Bengal tiger at Shanghai Zoo after apparently forgetting to lock the animal's cage.

In November 1999, AP reported: “Siberian tigers mauled a bus driver to death in a Chinese safari park as a busload of high school students looked on helplessly, news reports said Thursday. Four tigers attacked Xu Weixing, 42, when he got off his bus inside a tiger pen that covers several acres at the Shanghai Safari Park, newspapers and the state-run Xinhua news agency said. It took animal keepers 30 minutes to retrieve Xu, who died at a hospital within an hour of the attack, Xinhua said. [Source: AP, November 18, 1999]

“The safari park is home to some of the last Siberian tigers and is trying to breed them. Xu drove into the tiger pen after a bus carrying the students broke down, according to the Xinmin Evening News and the Shanghai News. He attached his own bus to the crippled vehicle and pulled it toward the exit before climbing down to ask a third bus to clear the road. Animals at the four-year-old park have attacked people before, but this is the first fatality, Xinhua said. The park has more than 10,000 animals from some 200 species. It has received 4 million visitors, according to Xinhua.

Safari Park Tiger Attacks in India

In October 1999, The Hindu reported: “Eighteen-year-old Mohammed Khaja was mauled to death by a tiger at the Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad, India Tuesday afternoon when he fell into the Tiger Safari park trying to catch a kite after clambering a 20 ft. wall and a steel mesh atop it. This is the second such incident in the safari park. Five years ago, a boy entered into it in search of a ball after having a bet with his friends that he would fetch it. [Source: The Hindu, October 20, 1999]

The Zoo Curator, Mr. K. N. Banerjee, said Mohammed Khaja, a resident of Mohammednagar Colony abutting the zoo, fell into the 40-acre Tiger Safari park with thick undergrowth and was almost immediately attacked by the lone tiger which was roaming around at that time. Usually at least four tigers are present in the safari park for the visitors to watch them through fortified vans.

The boy's father, who apparently warned his son against climbing onto the fence, raised an alarm on noticing the youth fall. Several people started shouting to alert the zoo employees. On receiving information, the Curator and his staff rushed to the safari park along with a doctor armed with a tranquilliser gun. Meanwhile, visitors in one of the vans doing the rounds had a bone-chilling experience when they suddenly noticed the tiger (four-year-old Rahul born in the zoo itself) sitting under a rock with the body of the youth beside it. "As soon as I saw the gory sight, I raced past it and took the passengers back to the alighting point. And then, again rushed back with my colleagues to rescue the person,'' recalls Srinivas, one of the drivers.

Having been alerted by the commotion, the tiger dragged the youth to a considerable distance into a thick undergrowth. Mr. Shekar Reddy, Assistant Curator, managed to get into the park from outside and located the badly injured youth. The other zoo workers made noises and threw stones to drive the tiger away from the spot. The body of the youth was dragged into a van with the tiger lurking dangerously close and then transported to the Osmania General Hospital. "We had to take a calculated risk and get into the safari park as it was very important to save the youth first,'' explained Mr. Banerjee. But, their brave act was in vain as it was ascertained that the youth had died on the spot. The body had injuries on the head, face and a deep wound on the chest.

The Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Mr. A. V. Joseph, who visited the park, said it was quite tragic that a life was lost due to sheer bravado. "We have built the wall and mesh to such a height that it would be difficult for the tigers to escape. The parents in the surrounding areas should ensure that their wards do not enter into the safari park,'' he said. He said the height of the steel mesh would be further increased in addition to an incline facing the outside as well and covered with barbed wire.

Captive Tiger Attacks in the United States

Attacks by captive tigers are not that rare. Between 1998 and 2001 there were seven fatal tiger attacks the United States and at least 20 more attacks that required emergency medical care. Among the victims were a seven year-old girl and a three-year-old boy killed by pet tigers in Texas; a 10-year-old boy killed by a tiger belonging to a neighbor and killed by the boy’s uncle; and a boy had his arm ripped off by his uncle’s tiger. The arm was reattached but the boy will never regain full use of it.

In August 2001, Ananova reported: “A tiger has mauled an animal trainer to death as he tried to protect his colleague. Vincent Lowe and a female trainer were fixing a fence at Savage Kingdom in Sumter County, Florida, when the Siberian tiger lunged at them. They tried to use a board to push the tiger back into its holding cage but as it overpowered them, Mr Lowe insisted the woman get out of the compound and secure the gate behind her. [Source: Ananova August 1, 2001]

“Lt Gary Brannen said the tiger tore a gash in Mr Lowe's neck, broke his ribs and clawed his head and arms. The park's owner, Mr Robert Baudy, shot the animal dead. When paramedics arrived Mr Lowe was dead, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Lt Brannen said: "He was trying to keep the cat at bay until she could get out. He told her to get out and shut the door. Maybe he thought he'd be able to control the animal and get it back into the other cage."

In October 2001, Associated Press reported: “The owner of a pet tiger that dragged a Central Texas toddler to death had kept the animal although his federal breeding permit expired. The 7-year-old, 250-pound tiger was bottle-fed as a cub and docile around small dogs. But when its owner, Kerry Quinney, took his 3-year-old step-grandson near the animal for a picture, the tiger grabbed the boy by the foot and ran away. Matthew Scott struck his head on several objects before Quinney was able to beat the tiger into releasing the child. The boy was flown from the Lee County home to an Austin hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Lee County enacted a ban on keeping wild animals in 1997. Quinney was allowed to keep three pet tigers because he had a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Austin American-Statesman reported Quinney's permit to breed his tigers expired three months before and had not been renewed. No criminal charges had been filed. [Source: Associated Press, October 12, 2001]

In June 2005, the Duluth News Tribune reported: “A ten-year-old Minnesota boy was left with brain injuries and is a quadriplegic after first being attacked by a tiger and then by a lion. The attack came as he and his father visited a man who owns eleven large cats. A number of reports about this irresponsible and horrific attack are out there, including one from the Duluth News Tribune . Authorities say that as the owner opened the door of a cage, a tiger pushed its way out and attacked the boy. As the tiger was being pulled off the ten-year-old, a lion stepped in and attacked him. [Source: Duluth News Tribune, June 29, 2005]

In November 1998, Associated Press reported: A Maine native who owned a rare white Bengal tiger was killed by her pet six weeks after the animal fatally attacked its trainer. Doris Guay, who moved to Florida from Biddeford, Maine, was leading 3-year-old Jupiter back into Xits pen Nov. 13 when she began to hand-feed chicken necks to the tiger. That's when the cat lunged without warning and bit her neck, authorities said. Paramedics said she died instantly. ''This was a completely unprovoked attack,'' said Alachua County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Jim Troiano. The cat was then shot to death by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office SWAT Team. The woman's husband, Ron Guay, co-owner of the tiger, was nearby in both attacks. He gave permission to shoot the animal. The Guays, owners of Ron and Joy Holiday's Cat Dancers, toured the United States and Europe with their exotic animals, appearing at fairs, circuses, and special events. They raised the tiger since it was 6 days old, The Gainesville Sun reported. [Source: Associated Press, November 22, 1998]

On the earlier attack of the tiger’s trainer, AP reported: A “white Bengal tiger being walked on a leash killed a trainer after it was startled by construction workers. Charles Edward Lizza III was running to help calm the 350-pound tiger when he tripped and fell and the animal bit him on the neck, said Alachua County sheriff's Sgt. Jim Troiano. Lizza, 34, died at a hospital. Ron Guay, who co-owns Ron and Joy Holiday's Cat Dancers, was walking the tiger from a night kennel to a day kennel when it was startled. [Source: Apm October 8, 1998],

See Pet Tigers

Tiger Attacks on Roy Horn

The most famous tiger attack victim is Roy Horn of the Las Vegas magic-entertainment team Siegfried and Roy. In October 2003, he was attacked on stage before an audience 1,500 people at the Mirage Hotel by one of his star white tigers, the 600-pound Montecore. In the middle of the act the tiger suddenly clamped on to Roy’s neck and dragged him offstage. An artery in his neck was punctured and blood gushed out like a fountain. A stage crew member had to insert his hand into the wound to keep Roy from bleeding out and dying on the spot. Roy made it the hospital where he had a stroke and had to have a quarter of his skull removed to relieve the pressure on his brain. Months later Roy was conscious but was only able to communicate by squeezing his hand.

According to reports, Montecore had been distracted by something, perhaps a large-haired woman or a perfume, or some movement, no one knows, and stepped outside his stage marks. When Roy tried to correct him the tiger didn’t respond. Roy tapped Montecore on the head with his microphone and the tiger playfully took the man’s arm in his mouth, which was completely out of character for the tiger. Roy then said, “No! No! No! Release.” The tiger did as he was he was told but when he let go Roy tripped and fell to the stage This is when Montecore clamped on to his neck. Offstage the tiger tried too pull Roy into his cage. Crew members sprayed the tiger with fire extinguishers to get him to let go.

Montecore had performed six days a week, 45 weeks a year for 6½ years at the 1,500-seat Siegfried & Roy Theater without any problems. He walked a few feet from the audience, and had always performed on cue. People close to Siegfried and Roy insist that Roy was not attacked. Rather, they say, Montecore got confused and sensed something was wrong and tried to “protect” Roy by grabbing him by the neck..

San Francisco Zoo Tiger Attacks

Two tiger attacks at the San Francisco Zoo occurred in and 2006 2007, both involving a 243-pound Siberian tiger named Tatiana. In the first incident, a zookeeper was bitten on the arm during a public feeding. During the second incident, in which two people were injured and one killed, police officers fatally shot the tiger. Tatiana was born in Denver in 2003 and brought to the San Francisco Zoo in 2005 to provide a 14-year-old Siberian tiger, Tony, with a mate. At that time Tatiana had no record of aggression towards humans. In the first attack, during a public feeding in December, 2006,, Tatiana clawed and bit veteran zookeeper Lori Komejan's arm which was pulled between the cage bars. Komejan's right arm was severely injured as a result. The zoo was fined US$18,000 after being found at fault due to inadequate safety precautions and inadequate staff training. The zoo decided not to euthanize Tatiana after the attack on Komejan; then-director Manuel Mollinedo said "the tiger was acting as a normal tiger does." [Source: Wikipedia]

In the second attack, in December 2007, Tatiana escaped from her open-air enclosure at the zoo and attacked three visitors shortly after closing time. Tatiana killed one 17-year-old Carlos Sousa, and injured two brothers,19-year-old Amritpal "Paul" and 23-year-old Kulbir Dhaliwal. The brothers fled to the zoo cafe approximately 300 meters away and, according to initial reports, left a trail of blood that the tiger followed. Paul Dhaliwal, began screaming outside the locked Terrace Cafe, prompting an employee to call 911.

Carlos Sousa was found near the tiger grotto by a zoo employee who remained with him until rescue crews arrived. The scene was chaotic, and as late as 13 minutes after the initial 911 call, police officers and fire department paramedics reached Carlos Sousa's body and found his throat slashed or punctured. His autopsy later revealed that he had blunt force injuries of the head and neck, many punctures and scratches to his head, neck and chest, skull and spinal fractures, and a cut to his jugular vein. When four police officers and a zoo shooting team member reached the tiger, they found her with one of the brothers, Kulbir Dhaliwal. They did not shoot Tatiana immediately, according to the SF police chief, because they could not be assured of "containing their fire" without risk to human life. After distraction, the tiger turned towards the officers and was shot and killed.

Police response was initially delayed, in part because cafe personnel who called the police voiced suspicions that perhaps the allegations of an animal attack were being made by a mentally unstable person. When the police and fire crews arrived at the zoo, they were further delayed by zoo security guards who were enforcing a lockdown so that the tiger would not escape the zoo grounds. The zoo was closed for a couple weeks after the attack.

Investigation of the San Francisco Zoo Tiger Attacks

After the shooting, Tatiana's head, paws, and tail were removed by the San Francisco police department's crime scene investigation unit. Her gastric contents were also taken. An examination of Tatiana's stomach contents revealed only the remnants of small animals, and no human tissue. The Dhaliwal brothers received deep bites and claw wounds on their heads, necks, arms, and hands. Their injuries were not life-threatening, and they were released from the hospital two days later. [Source: Wikipedia]

An investigation found that the wall of the tiger enclosure was low enough to allow the tiger to escape and Tatiana may have been harassed by the victims of the attack. Two days after the attack the zoo retracted its prior claim that the grotto's moat wall was 18 feet (5.5 m) tall, after officials measured it and found it was actually 12.5 feet (3.8 m) tall. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums recommendation for big cat enclosures is a moat wall of 16.5 feet (5.0 m). Tatiana's paws were also found to carry concrete chips, suggesting that she climbed out of the moat using her claws on the wall. It was not immediately apparent how Tatiana had escaped, but police said that Tatiana may have "leaped" or "climbed" the walls of her enclosure. Police undertook a criminal investigation to determine whether one of the victims "climbed over a waist-high fence and then dangled a leg or other body part over the edge of a moat that kept the big cat away from the public." A 1996 zoo visitor reported an incident in which a tiger leapt and got a paw on top of the wall, but slipped down. She said that a zoo employee dismissed the incident as a regular occurrence and that her letter to the zoo's director went unanswered.

Sources told the San Francisco Chronicle that pine cones and sticks that might have been thrown at Tatiana had been found and which could not have landed in the vicinity naturally. Amritpal Dhaliwal later admitted the three had yelled and waved at the tiger. According to early news sources, the Dhaliwal brothers had slingshots on them at the time of the attack. In later reports, the police denied that slingshots were found in the victims' car or at the zoo. A zoo visitor said she saw a group of men, including Sousa, taunting lions less than an hour before the tiger attack. According to police records, Sousa's blood alcohol level was 0.16, and all three involved had cannabis in their system. "Police found a small amount of marijuana in Kulbir Dhaliwal's 2002 BMW, which the victims drove to the zoo, as well as a partially filled bottle of vodka, according to court documents." Also, "police found a partial shoe print that matched Paul Dhaliwal's on top of the railing."

Man Mauled After Leaping Into Tiger Area at Bronx Zoo

Wendy Ruderman and Patrick Mcgeehan wrote in the New York Times, “On the last day of summer, with the crisp air warmed by the late-afternoon sun, a 25-year-old rider waited until the Wild Asia Monorail was alongside the tiger habitat and then he leapt from the last rail car, clearing a 16-foot-high protective fence, according to zoo officials. At about 3:25 p.m., the man, David Villalobos of Mahopac, N.Y., landed inside the tiger enclosure, where he was suddenly alone with Bachuta, an 11-year-old male Siberian tiger weighing 400 pounds, officials said. Bachuta attacked him, leaving “puncture wounds” on his arms, legs, shoulder and back, but did not appear to have clamped its jaws onto the man’s head or neck, as tigers are wont to do to their prey, said James Breheny, the zoo’s director. [Source: Wendy Ruderman and Patrick Mcgeehan, New York Times, September 21, 2012 ^^]

“The police said Mr. Villalobos also suffered a broken arm and a broken leg; he was in serious condition at Jacobi Medical Center, the police said. Frank Dwyer, a spokesman for the Fire Department, said the attack also caused “severe deep cuts” to the man’s back. As Mr. Villalobos lay bleeding, zoo workers rushed to help him, shooing the tiger off with blasts from a fire extinguisher, Mr. Breheny said. After the tiger backed away, the man was told to roll under an electrified wire to safety.“The keepers were able to call the tiger into its off-exhibit holding area and safely secured the animal,” Mr. Breheny said, adding that the man was conscious and talking when he was transported to the hospital by ambulance. He said the animal would be treated as usual because “the tiger did nothing wrong.” ^^

Mr. Breheny said he did not know what motive Mr. Villalobos had for making the leap. He said it was the first time in the 35 years the monorail has operated that a passenger had jumped from it into an animal area. “We honestly think we were providing a safe experience,” he said. Mr. Villalobos’s Facebook page is filled with tributes to nature and images of tigers and other wild animals. One picture of wolves carries the caption: “Love the animals. God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Don’t trouble it, don’t harass them, don’t deprive them of their happiness.” ^^

Tiger Attacks Kindergartner at California School Assembly

In September 2002, Michelle R. Smith of Associated Press wrote: “A tiger attacked a kindergartner at a school assembly Friday, sending the 6-year-old boy to a hospital. The tiger was being led out of an auditorium at Baymonte Christian School by its trainer when it suddenly lurched over a row of seats and grabbed the boy by the head in its jaws, Scotts Valley Police Capt. Harry Bidleman said. The tiger was on a leash, he said, and children had been kept clear of the animal during the assembly. [Source: Michelle R. Smith, Associated Press, September 20, 2002]

Principal Steve Patterson was sitting one row behind the boy and wrestled him away from the declawed animal, said school spokesman Jenny Paul. The boy was airlifted to Stanford Medical Center, where he was in guarded condition. He was admitted for observation, would undergo a CT scan Friday to find any head injuries not immediately apparent. He would then get stitches to a laceration on his head, spokesman Robert Dicks said. Scotts Valley is about 60 miles south of San Francisco and about 30 miles south of Stanford.

The tiger was in the custody of Zoo to You Wildlife Education Inc., the company that brought it to the school, Bidleman said. Police planned to coordinate any possible investigation with Santa Cruz County Animal Services and the state Department of Fish and Game. "It sounds more accidental than criminal, but there could be some overseeing bodies that would want this completely investigated,'' he said. Paul said the 1-year-old tiger was brought to the school as a reward for children who had sold 10 or more magazine subscriptions. About 150 students, from kindergarten through eighth grade, attended the assembly, Paul said. "He was here last year when he was a little cub. It was his second visit here,'' Paul said.

Tiger Trainer Killed by Tiger

Rick Linsk wrote in the Pioneer Press: Cynthia Lee Gamble was known for being fearless, friends say. But when the longtime animal handler went into the cages that housed her beloved tigers near Sandstone, Minn., something went tragically wrong. Investigators worked to understand how Gamble came to be fatally mauled by a 500-pound Bengal tiger. For years, Gamble was widely known for exhibiting animals at civic events and schools, most recently from her base in Duxbury, Minn., about 90 miles north of the Twin Cities. She raised, trained, and filmed wolves, wolverines, coyotes, and foxes; produced several films about exotic animals; and wrote a children's book on leopards. [Source: Rick Linsk, Pioneer Press, April 8, 2006]

Gamble, 52, was found dead by a friend visiting the 80-acre site, said Pine County Sheriff Mark Mansavage. The tigers were housed in separate cages within a larger fenced enclosure. The individual cages were normally closed off from a "pass-through" area by drop doors, Mansavage said. The sheriff said one of the drop doors was apparently left open, leaving Gamble exposed to the tiger. "It appears the cat took one leap and was on her," Mansavage said.

Gamble then began working with larger animals such as tigers, creating the Center for Endangered Cats with business partner Craig Wagner in 1992. In 1997, more than 30 neighbors signed a petition protesting the center, saying it endangered lives and lowered property values. Allegations were aired of unsafe conditions, according to court records, including cats escaping their cages and a bite that hospitalized one of Gamble's colleagues.

Gamble was on the road nine months a year as the center's 40 cats made television appearances including NBC's "Today" show, according to a 2002 story in the weekly Pine County Courier. Gamble also had a hand in the 2000 movie "Vertical Limit," providing two snow leopards for a brief sequence.

The center did not let the public onto its grounds, and colleagues said Gamble was a careful operator. It was not her practice to walk into the cages alone, Greenly said. But Mike Janis, the former director of the Duluth Zoo who once visited the center, said that while impressed with how Gamble and Wagner ran it overall, he was concerned that they occasionally would enter the cages with the tigers. "A single person never, ever works alone with a big carnivore. All you have to do is slip, or not make sure a gate is closed, and something can happen," Janis said.

Gamble, deeply in debt, filed a bankruptcy petition in 2004. Among her possessions were two tigers and a caracal, similar to a lynx, worth $500 in all. She took a job at the Grand Casino in Hinckley and also worked in a local restaurant for a time.

Interest groups on both sides weighed in Friday. PETA, the animal rights group, said it had sent letters to Minnesota legislators urging that only accredited zoos and sanctuaries be allowed to own big cats and exotic animals. The group said there had been 196 dangerous incidents in 39 states involving big cats, with a sharp increase in recent years. Exotic animal enthusiasts fired back, saying most of the deaths involved owners or handlers who had accepted the risk, rather than members of the public.

Mansavage said the difficult recovery of Gamble's body Thursday night made a powerful impression on him. "It was one of the worst things I've ever come across," he said. "I couldn't tell you how many times (the tiger) kept running at the fences and just making that screeching roar. It's something I'll probably never, ever forget. I don't know how these people get used to it and work with those animals."

Tiger Mauls Woman at Marine World

Patricia Jacobus and Tanya Schevitz wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, “In a sudden and furious attack, a 340-pound Bengal tiger at Marine World wild animal park mauled a San Jose woman during a photo session yesterday, seriously injuring her and scratching the trainer who beat the big cat on its head to distract it. The woman, 45-year-old Jaunell Waldo, was taken by helicopter from the Vallejo park to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She initially was listed in serious but stable condition and was upgraded to fair condition after surgery. Park officials immediately canceled future photo sessions with the park's 12 tigers. [Source: Patricia Jacobus and Tanya Schevitz, San Francisco Chronicle, August 1, 1998]

The injured trainer, Chad Zierenberg, was treated at Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo for tiger scratches on his back and was later released. Another trainer, Chris Austria, who yanked on the tiger's leash and pulled him away from the woman, was not injured. In January 1996, Zierenberg was slightly injured when two cougars that he and another trainer were exercising attacked. In November 1986, another Marine World tiger mauled a San Mateo High School football player during a noisy pep rally at the school.

The attack happened at 10:45 a.m. when Waldo was posing on a backstage platform with Kuma, a 2-year-old tiger who was a veteran of some 100 photo sessions. This one started out as just another routine posing in the park's "Phenomenal Photo Program,'' which allows park customers to be photographed with tigers and orangutans. The session took place in a makeshift outdoor photo studio that was not visible to park visitors.

According to park spokesman Jeff Jouett, this is what happened: A friend of Waldo had given her the $250 photo session as a birthday present, and Waldo was kneeling on a raised platform, with Kuma lying down beside her. Austria held a leash attached to a chain around Kuma's neck. Zierenberg was nearby. People having their picture taken with the tigers are instructed to get up if the tiger gets up. For some reason, Kuma got up, so Waldo did, too. But Waldo lost her balance and fell off the platform, which was about two feet off the ground. The suddenness of the fall apparently frightened Kuma, and he lunged after the woman, landed on top of her and bit her around the neck and head.

"The animal bit her basically from below the ear into the neck and back around the neck,'' John Muir trauma surgeon Robert Burns said. "She had multiple lacerations on the side of the face, the neck and the right arm, and multiple claw marks on the back and chest.'' The bite was on the left side of her neck. "They were fairly deep. She has injuries down to the base of the skull and the bone,'' Burns said.

The sheer power and force of Kuma's lunge off the platform yanked Austria, who was holding the leash, along with him. Austria regained his balance and pulled the tiger's head far enough from the screaming woman that Zierenberg could slip in between her and the tiger. The frightened tiger then wrapped his paws around Zierenberg's lower back and clawed him.

Both trainers screamed commands at the tiger. Austria pulled on the leash and Zierenberg, trying to distract the animal, hit him on the head with a cane. Within seconds it was over, and the tiger, heeding the commands, calmed down. Marine World's response team arrived and treated the woman until the arrival of paramedics and the helicopter that took her to the hospital.

Jouett said the tiger would be isolated for a couple of weeks and "observed for any behavioral abnormalities.'' "Kuma was very frightened,'' Jouett said. "It was unusual for him to be pulled and beaten, and with all the screaming going on, he reacted instinctively in an aggressive manner.'' Jouett said this was the first time Kuma attacked anyone. "He's been here since he was a few weeks old and was raised by the trainers,'' Jouett said. "He is a good cat.''

Still, yesterday's attack raised questions about whether people should be allowed near the big cats. David Robinett, general curator at the San Francisco Zoo, said the zoo would never let visitors in an enclosure with a tiger and rarely allows staff members to go into cages with tigers. Even then, they use barriers to separate themselves from the animals. "Basically, you are dealing with a wild animal, and regardless of how much you work with it and train it, there is always the potential for danger,'' Robinett said. He said places like Marine World usually raise their big cats from birth and acclimate the animals to various outside stimuli so that they won't be frightened when something unusual happens.

In North Dakota, a 5-year-old boy was injured in a similar attack a few days before, when he was having his picture taken with a Bengal tiger at a state fair exhibit. The tiger apparently became unnerved by the crowd and clawed Antony Gottus, who underwent plastic surgery for several facial cuts. The boy was reported to be in good condition yesterday at a Minot, N.D., hospital.

Tiger Bites Off and Swallows Keeper's Arm

In February 1998, The Telegraph reported: “A man working at the winter quarters of Chipperfield Circus was flown to hospital yesterday after his arm was bitten off and swallowed by a tiger. Nigel Wesson, 38, is believed to have been feeding the animal through the bars of its cage at the circus's base in Chipping Norton, Oxon, when it seized his left arm, severing the lower half. He was flown to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where his left arm was amputated above the elbow. Chris Hurley, a paramedic, said: "He had lost a great deal of blood. He said 'my arm's gone' and I knew straight away there was no point in trying to find it." An orderly said: "We asked him if he was allergic to anything and he smiled and replied 'only tigers'." Staff at the quarters usually use a long stick to put food into the cages but it is believed that Mr Wesson, who lived at the site and had worked there for just a few weeks, had put his arm into the cage.

Police said that some of the animals were in circus winter quarters while others there were used for film work. Insp Roger Holworth, of Thames Valley Police, said that the four-year-old Bengal tiger would not be put down. Last month, a member of the Chipperfield family was mauled by a tiger in Florida. Richard Chipperfield, 24, is still in hospital after a Bengal tiger clamped its jaws around his head during a photo-shoot. Graham, his brother and partner in the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, shot the animal. He quit the animal training business shortly afterwards. A spokesman for Chipperfield Enterprises said: "Our family has bred tigers for 50 years and, up until January this year, we have never before had any kind of serious accident with a tiger." The Chipperfields' treatment of animals was attacked earlier this month by Animal Defenders, a sister organisation to the National Anti-Vivisection Society. It claimed that lions and tigers at Chipping Norton spent 90 per cent of their time in small cages. [Source: Tom Leonard , The Telegraph, February 26, 1998]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: National Geographic, Natural History magazine, Smithsonian magazine, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, Top Secret Animal Attack Files website, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, The Economist, BBC, and various books and other publications.

Last updated May 2014

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