The Hillsborough County Fire Rescue department is reporting that a female volunteer at the Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary in St. Petersburg was seriously injured after she was bitten by one of the tigers.
The alert was reported around 8:30 a.m. on Thursday.
Agency spokesman Eric Seidel told The Associated Press that 69-year-old Candy Couser who regularly feeds the animals, was in the process of feeding a 3-year-old male tiger named Kimba. Couser noticed that Kimba was not in his usual spot so she reached in to opened a gate that had been clipped shut. At that moment, the tiger grabbed hold of Kimba’s arm.
Employees at the sanctuary jumped in to perform stop-the-bleed protocol calls while waiting on emergency personnel to take Couser to a hospital.
Carole Baskin spoke to reporters saying that Couser was not following proper protocol when the incident occurred.
“This is our universal signal NOT to open a gate” without assistance, Baskin said. “It is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it.”
Baskin also confirmed that Couser’s arm was broken in three places and her shoulder was badly injured, but that she was able to move her fingers.
Kimba will be placed in quarantine for the next 30 days, is expected to be released back into his normal cage because the tiger was “just acting normal due to the presence of food and the opportunity,” Baskin said.
According to the agency, Couser says she did not want the animal to face any consequences for the incident.