Cleaning service worker attacked by tiger at Florida zoo; animal fatally shot

NAPLES, Fla. — A cleaning service worker was attacked by a tiger at a southwest Florida zoo on Wednesday, authorities and zoo officials confirmed.

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Updated 11:22 p.m. EST Dec. 30: The cleaning service contract worker was identified as River Rosenquist, 26, of Naples, the Naples Daily News reported. According to authorities, Rosenquist breached the 8-year-old male Malayan tiger’s enclosure and the animal, named Eko, mauled him, requiring a Collier County Sheriff’s deputy to fatally shoot the big cat.

Rosenquist was listed in fair condition at an area hospital, WINK-TV reported.

Updated 3:20 p.m. EST Dec. 30: The zoo has issued a statement saying it is working with the sheriff’s department. A grief counselor will also be working with employees to help process what happened Wednesday.

Thank you for patience through this difficult situation. Our team has been working very closely with the Collier County...

Posted by Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens on Thursday, December 30, 2021

On Thursday, the sheriff’s office released body camera video of the incident. Warning the video is graphic and there is possible profanity.

The man who was bitten was identified as River Rosenquist, the sheriff’s department said Thursday. He is 26 years old and from Naples, Florida.

The sheriff’s deputy tried to get the tiger to release Rosenquist’s arm, but the animal would not release the man, so the sheriff’s department said the deputy had to shoot to save the injured man’s life.

“Our deputy did everything he could do in that situation and he ultimately made the only possible decision he could in order to save this man’s life,” Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said. “This was a tragic encounter at our world-class zoo facility. We value our community partnership with the Naples Zoo and their focus on conservation and education.”

The sheriff’s department said an investigation is ongoing and will determine if criminal charges could be filed against Rosenquist.

Updated 8:35 a.m. EST Dec. 30: Zoo officials said the Malayan tiger named Eko was killed, ABC News reported.

The tiger went to the back of its enclosure after the incident and didn’t respond when a drone was flown in by the authorities.

A veterinarian sedated the animal once it was deemed safe to do so the Collier County Sheriff’s Office said.

The big cat died later, BBC News reported.

Eko was 8 years old and arrived at the Naples Zoo from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle in December 2019. It was introduced to the public in February 2020, ABC News reported.

Original report: According to a news release from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, after the Naples Zoo had closed to the public at 4:30 p.m. EST, a third-party cleaning service worker contracted by the zoo entered an unauthorized area near a male tiger named Eko that was inside its enclosure. The company typically cleans restrooms and the gift shop but not the animal enclosures.

According to the sheriff’s office, the man, who is in his 20s, was either petting or feeding the animal when the Malayan tiger grabbed the man’s arm and pulled him into the enclosure.

Deputies were called to the zoo at 6:26 p.m., and a deputy kicked open the enclosure and attempted to get the tiger to release the man’s arm. The deputy was forced to shoot the animal, the sheriff’s office said.

The man was transported to an area hospital as a trauma alert, the sheriff’s office said.

Lee Memorial Hospital confirmed to WBBH-TV that staffers were treating the man, who was airlifted to the facility.

The status of the tiger is unknown, the sheriff’s office said. Deputies flew a drone into the enclosure but the animal has not responded. A veterinarian sedated the tiger and will examine it when it is safe to do so, the sheriff’s office said.

ABC News, citing a zoo spokesperson, later reported that the tiger had died.

The sheriff’s office and agents from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were at the zoo speaking with witnesses, WINK-TV reported.

The Naples Zoo is nationally accredited and includes rare animals such as lions, giraffes, monkeys, pythons, and bears, the Naples Daily News reported.

According to the zoo’s blog, tigers can run in short bursts up to 40 mph and have night vision that is six times better than humans.