TAMPA BAY, Fla. — A volunteer received an extreme injury to her arm after being bitten by a tiger at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa Thursday morning.
Candy Couser, who has volunteered with the animal sanctuary for five years and has been a Green Level Keeper for almost three years, was feeding 3-year-old Kimba when she noticed he was not where he was usually fed but instead locked in another section, according to a press release from Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin.
After noticing he was in the other section, Couser, according to the release, "opened a guillotine tunnel door at one end of the tunnel, and when she went to raise the second door she saw it was clipped shut."
"This is our universal signal NOT to open a gate without the coordinator coming to assist, but Candy said she just wasn't thinking when she reached in to unclip it," Baskin said in the release. "It is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it. Kimba grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder."
After reaching in, Kimba bit Couser's arm. He let go of his grip when other volunteers went running to Couser's aid. The volunteers, according to the release, helped Couser with the bleeding until an ambulance arrived and took her to St. Joseph's Hospital.
"Candy was still conscious and insisted that she did not want Kimba Tiger to come to any harm for this mistake," Baskin stated in the release. "He is being placed in quarantine for the next 30 days as a precaution, but was just acting normal due to the presence of food and the opportunity."
Kimba was locked away in the other section because cameras were being installed in the section he's usually fed in.
A staff member at a Florida big cat sanctuary featured prominently in Netflix's "Tiger King" was reportedly bitten by an animal on Thursday morning.
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue said they responded to the scene, and that one person was rushed to a nearby hospital with "serious injuries" from a large cat. The injuries are not expected to be life-threatening.
The Big Cat Rescue was founded by Carole Baskin, the woman who battled with fellow big cat park owner Joseph Maldonado-Passage — better known as Joe Exotic — throughout the popular Netflix docuseries "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness."
"Tiger King" spent much of its time focusing on the feud between Baskin and Joe Exotic, which included accusations by him that Baskin was behind the disappearance of her ex-husband, Don Lewis. Baskin has denied those allegations and has not been charged with a crime in connection with Lewis' death.
In January 2019, Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison in connection with a murder-for-hire plot in an attempt to have Baskin killed. He was also convicted of several violations of the Endangered Species Act.
Baskin was upset with how the show portrayed the captive tiger trade.
Big Cat Rescue is closed to the public due to the coronavirus outbreak. A recent post on the park's website said the animal rescue is losing $160,000 a month in tour revenue.
This story was originally published by Dan Trujillo on WFTS in Tampa, Florida.