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Zookeeper talks on hold as Naples Zoo adjusts to life without Eko

Naples zoo poster
Posted at 7:07 AM, Jan 03, 2022

NAPLES, Fla. — The Naples Zoo will keep its "Meet the Keeper" group presentations on hold through Thursday, Jan. 6, as zookeepers and other staff continue to deal with last week's death of Malayan tiger Eko.

The notice was posted over the weekend on the zoo's website.

On Dec. 29, cleaning worker River Rosenquist approached the tiger enclosures - an unauthorized area for the contractor - and was mauled on the arm by the animal. Initial investigations indicate Rosenquist was petting or possibly feeding the tiger.

After calling 911 for help, a Collier County deputy eventually shot Eko after exhausting other avenues to get the tiger to release. The zoo was closed to the public at the time of the incident.

Naples Zoo remained closed on Thursday to allow staff time to come to terms with the incident. The zoo reopened to the public Friday for a truncated New Year's Eve schedule. At the time the "Meet the Keeper" event had already been suspended.

Zoo president and CEO Jack Mulvana said Friday the entire staff felt pure sadness and even choked back his own tears as he spoke with members of the media.

Mulvana said the zoo holds no ill will toward Rosenquist. In 911 audio released last week Rosenquist repeatedly says “I’m sorry,” and Mulvana said he accepts that apology.

“We meet the highest standards. Ultimately at the end of the day things happen that are beyond your control, even when you try to control them," said Mulvana.

Dozens of customers lined up Friday to support the zoo and its staff.

"It's very difficult to keep a zoo open nowadays," said Philadelphia visitor Matt Roeger. "We're very happy to contribute and do our part."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Collier County Sheriff's Office and zoo officials are conducting independent investigations surrounding the incident. It is unclear if Rosenquist will face charges connected to his actions.