NAPLES, Fla. — The Naples Zoo will be closed to visitors Thursday after man was bitten on the arm by a tiger Wednesday night.
Zoo spokesperson Courtney Jolly says the closure is to give staff members time to process what happened and to allow time for a full investigation.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office says a worker from a cleaning company entered the tiger enclosure at the Naples Zoo, and was mauled by the animal.
Naples Zoo will be closed today, December 30th. The decision to close today was made to allow officials to complete their investigation into the late evening. This decision was also made to allow the Zoo to begin its own internal investigation and to allow our staff to process what has occurred and to begin the painful healing process. A grief counselor will be available for staff beginning today. We will reopen at 9am tomorrow and we thank our community for their understanding and for the messages and words of encouragement and support that have been flowing into us.
A sheriff’s office spokesperson says deputies arrived at the scene to find man’s arm still inside the tiger’s mouth. A deputy tried to free the man and kick the cage in an attempt to get the animal to release, but officials say the deputy was forced to shoot the tiger.
Naples Zoo officials confirmed the tiger, an 8-year-old Malayan named Eko, died. The zoo had announced his arrival from the Woodland Zoo of Seattle in February 2020.
Officials from Lee Health confirmed that the man, who is in his 20's, is being treated at their hospital with serious injuries.
The sheriff’s office says the man was not supposed to be in the tiger cage. The cleaning company he worked for was responsible for cleaning the gift shop and restrooms, not any animal enclosures.
The Sheriff’s office said preliminary reports indicate the victim was petting or feeding the tiger, both of which are dangerous and unauthorized.
Jolly says the zoo works very closely with the sheriff's office and they support the actions taken Wednesday.
"What a lot of people don't know is that the zoo has a trained shoot team for daily crisis activity," said Jolly. "They are a professional shoot team."
Naples Zoo will reopen as scheduled Friday, including a planned early closure for the New Year's holiday.