A sheriff's deputy shot a Malayan tiger that attacked a man working for a third-party cleaning company at Florida's Naples Zoo, according to officials.
The Collier County Sheriff's Office said the man, 26-year-old River Rosenquist, was seriously injured Wednesday evening when he entered an unauthorized area near the tiger's enclosure.
“Preliminary information indicates that the man was either petting or feeding the animal, both of which are unauthorized and dangerous activities," the sheriff's report said.
Investigators said they believe the tiger grabbed the man’s arm after he breached a barrier fence and put his arm through the fence surrounding the enclosure.
Get New England news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NECN newsletters.
"We've never had an incident like this at the zoo ever before. We've never had an incident with this specific tiger," said Courtney Jolly of Naples Zoo. "We've never had anything like this happen at the zoo before. We've never had anybody breached the barrier fence and put themselves in this situation.
The man was flown to Lee Memorial Hospital in nearby Fort Myers, according to NBC2 News. His condition was not known Thursday.
The zoo confirmed Eko, the 8-year-old Malayan tiger, later died. The zoo posted on its website that it will remain closed on Thursday.
U.S. & World
CCSO said the first deputy to arrive at the scene first tried to get the tiger to let go of the man’s arm by kicking the enclosure, but was forced to shoot the animal when it wouldn't release him from its mouth.
The sheriff’s office — which had earlier reported the tiger was 4 years old — said the tiger retreated back into its enclosure after being shot. Deputies flew a drone inside and found the tiger was not responsive. It was then sedated by a veterinarian who had planned to examine it.
CCSO and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are investigating.
Eko arrived at the Naples Zoo in December 2019, according to a representative. It was the only tiger at the zoo.
The Malayan tiger is one of the smallest tiger species found throughout the southern and central Malay Peninsula and southern parts of Thailand, according to Malaysian Wildlife. It is the national symbol of Malaysia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.