Skip to Content

A man suffered serious injuries after being attacked by a tiger at a Florida zoo. The tiger was shot and killed

<i>Naples Zoo Public Relations</i><br/>A critically endangered tiger named Eko was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy on December 29 after a man was attacked by the animal at a zoo in Naples
Naples Zoo Public Relations
A critically endangered tiger named Eko was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy on December 29 after a man was attacked by the animal at a zoo in Naples

By Kay Jones, Jennifer Henderson and Danielle Sills, CNN

A critically endangered Malayan tiger named Eko was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy Wednesday after a man was attacked by the animal at a zoo in Naples, Florida, officials said.

The 26-year-old man, was seriously injured when he entered an unauthorized area of the tiger enclosure at the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens and began either petting or feeding the tiger, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) said in a Facebook post.

The attack happened after the zoo had closed for the day. The man was part of a third-party cleaning service contracted by the zoo to clean restrooms and the gift shop, not the animal enclosure, the sheriff’s office noted.

The tiger grabbed the man’s arm and pulled it into the enclosure after he crossed “an initial fence barrier and put his arm through the fencing of the tiger enclosure,” the sheriff’s office statement said.

The first deputy to respond kicked the enclosure and attempted to get the tiger to release the man’s arm, but the deputy “was forced to shoot the tiger,” the sheriff’s office said. The tiger died, a zoo official told CNN.

CCSO released body camera video Thursday that showed the deputy waited at least 40 seconds from the time he arrived at the enclosure before he fired his weapon at the tiger. Before firing, the deputy is heard asking if anyone had a tranquilizer.

The body-camera footage shows deputies arriving and finding the man’s arm still in the grip of the mouth of the tiger. The deputy told other responders the tiger was trying to pull the man through the fence and that he had to shoot the tiger to free him.

“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,” said Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said in a statement on Facebook. “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 unidentified man was transported to an area hospital. CCSO is working with state and federal prosecutors to investigate the incident. The investigation will determine whether any charges will be filed against the man, CCSO said on Facebook.

This is the first incident of its kind to take place at Naples Zoo and with this tiger, said Courtney Jolly, the zoo’s spokesperson. The zoo has also never had “anybody breach a barrier fence and put themselves in this situation,” Jolly said.

The zoo has a “shoot team” that is trained for “daily crisis activity” and protocol is for that team to be at the zoo when it is open to the public, Jolly said. The team includes an incident commander, someone in charge of the animals, a lead shooter and a lead darter.

A grief counselor has been brought in for staff and will stay as long as needed, she added.

Eko was 8 years old and arrived at the Naples Zoo in December 2019, the official said. The zoo did not provide further details on the incident. Eko was a Malayan tiger, which are typically found on the Malay Peninsula and in the southern tip of Thailand, according to the zoo’s website.

Malayan tigers are critically endangered and face threats including poaching and habitat loss, the zoo site said.

The zoo remained closed Thursday but will re-open Friday, Jolly said during a news conference Thursday.

“We’re giving our staff some time to process what has happened but also give them some time to start the grieving process and the healing process,” Jolly said. “It is a very sad day at the zoo. And we sincerely appreciate the community support.”

Jolly said the zoo fully supports the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

“They have been incredible to us, not just yesterday but in the long run. We’ve been partners with them for a very long time,” Jolly said. “If a person is in imminent danger, they have to take that action and we support CCSO, and the officer unfortunately had to do his job.”

The Naples Zoo has decided to start a fund in Eko’s name to honor him and his memory, but they are still determining the details of the fund, Jolly said.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - National

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

CNN Newsource


KVIA ABC 7 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content