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Employee bitten after feeding tiger at airboat park

Posted at 5:29 PM, Mar 22, 2022

EVERGLADES, Fla. — The employee of Wooten's Airboats, near Ochopee, who was bitten on both arms by one of the park's tigers, was warned before to not put his hand in the tiger’s enclosure according to a Collier County Sheriff’s office report.

In the report, a witness says 48-year-old Ignacio Meabe Martinez was told by another employee to stop what he was doing. He was feeding the tigers their dinner when Martinez allegedly put his hand through the fence. The witness told deputies that he asked Martinez to stop but ignored him and was bitten.

The incident happened around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. , according to an incident report.

The tiger then reportedly bit both of the man's arms.

A statement issued Wednesday morning by Wooten officials said the man was attempting to feed the tiger. They confirmed the employee was not authorized to be in the enclosure.

Their statement in full:

A Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours employee was injured today while feeding a tiger in the company’s animal sanctuary. He was transported to Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers to receive medical attention.

Wooten’s staff worked with law enforcement to investigate the incident. The tiger’s caretaker, who has worked at Wooten’s for 25 years, said the employee was not authorized to enter the tiger’s enclosure or feed the tiger.

Wooten’s is licensed to care for tigers by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the US Department of Agriculture.

The tiger was not injured and remains in her enclosure.

All of us at Wooten’s offer our sincere sympathies to the employee and his family, and wish him a speedy recovery.

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The man was sent to Gulf Coast Medical Center for treatment. Their condition is not known at this time.

Meanwhile, the tiger was not harmed in the incident, according to park officials. Fish and Wildlife Commission officials say an investigation is ongoing.

This is the second incident involving a tiger reacting to unauthorized human interaction in Collier County since December. In that incident, River Rosenquist, contractor for Naples Zoo, reached his arm into the enclosure for Eko, the zoo's star Malayan tiger. Eko bit Rosenquist, prompting a response from Collier County deputies.

A deputy was forced to fatally shoot the tiger when it would not release Rosenquist.