Commentary: All captive wild animals kept in zoological parks and sanctuaries must be kept safe from all human encounters; with the exceptions of veterinarian aid and general care such as feedings and cleaning of habitats. They must never be considered tame or domesticated even if they have spent their entire lives in the company of human beings.
Over the past three months, two separate attacks occurred that resulted in the death of one person and maiming of another. Both events occurred because people invaded the tigers’ personal spaces. They walked into the “lion’s den” so to speak and got bit.
The first incident occurred in September at the New Delhi Zoo. According to reports, the male tiger named Vijay initially sat and watched 20 year old Maqsood Khan after he fell or climbed into its enclosure. But he soon attacked the young man when witnesses began throwing stones and making noise in an attempt to distract him. Since then, an investigation into the zoo’s staff has been ongoing. Apparently, it took over 15 minutes for staff to come to the aid of Khan. But by then, it was too late to save him. Vijay has not been killed and is currently living as a popular attraction at the zoo.
The second incident occurred just one month later when a 49 year old Australian tourist named Paul Goudie was mauled by a tiger at the Tiger Kingdom Park in Phuket Thailand. The park allows visitors to have close encounters with a variety of individual tigers, have photo ops, and even bottle feed cubs. It is not clear as to what caused the tiger to attack. According to reports, Goudie suffered wounds to his stomach and legs but was expected to survive. It is not clear what became of the tiger.
Big cat attacks are not limited to outside the United States. According to Born Free USA Exotic Animal Incidents database, two human deaths occurred in the United States last year. On November 10, 2013, a long time employee was killed by a cougar at the Wild Cat Haven located in Sherwood Illinois. The status of the cougar is not known. On March 6, 2013, a female volunteer was killed by a male lion at the Project Survival Cat Haven located in Dunlop California. The lion was killed by authorities shortly after the tragic event. There have also been 21 reported incidents of injuries to humans due to big cat encounters from 2009 to 2014. It is also important to remember that several of these incidents dealt with people considered as highly experienced with handling big cats.
The lesson to be learned from the attacks referenced in this article is quite simple: In order to keep people safe from wild animals at zoos and sanctuaries, officials must keep the animals safe from the people. Protecting one will undoubtedly protect the other.
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