- (Photo: Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi)
A tiger attacked an employee at a Wynnwood, Oklahoma zoo after she stuck her hand inside the big cat's enclosure Saturday. Although her arm was "badly damaged" by the tiger's claws and teeth, doctors were able to save the limb, and she is currently in stable condition.
The tiger attack occurred after the unidentified employee of the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park stuck her arm in a small hole at 10 a.m Saturday. Her loose goose down jacket bunched up, allowing the animal to grab her arm and mangle it bad enough that she required hospitalization.
"He tore up her arm pretty bad," Joe Schreibvogel told the Associated Press. "Her entire arm was still attached. It was badly, badly damaged."
The park's emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene within two minutes, and after tending to the woman's injuries, she was airlifted to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City for surgery. Critics said the incident is the zoo's fault, alleging that they have had animal welfare issues in the past.
"They are not a legitimately of professionally run operation," Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma director of the Humane Society of the United States, told OKCFox.com. "They don't have the appropriate accreditation, they don't have a technical staff that knows what they're doing."
Schreibvogel defended the park, saying they haven't had a major issue since their opening in 1997. He also said the employee, who is the supervisor for the tigers, violated the safety protocol.
"[A] female worker violated safety protocol and placed her hand inside [an] adult male tiger cage," a statement on the zoo's Facebook page read. "This was an employee error of violating the safety protocols of placing any part of the body inside a cage. The tiger will not be put down and our thoughts and prayers are with the member of our staff that was injured."
Schreibvogel also said the woman admitted that the incident with the 14-year-old mixed breed rescue was her fault and is already talking about returning to work. Her job is waiting for her as well, the owner said.
"When you work with these things every day, you tend to let your guard down and think they're pets, that they're like dogs. They're not- they're tigers," he said.
Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park features tigers, bears, monkeys, zebras and other animals. According to their website, they have rescued over 1,400 animals and placed 1,200 in zoos and sanctuaries.