Tiger bites trainer's neck at Australia Zoo

Last updated 22:14 26/11/2013

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A senior tiger handler is in a serious but stable condition after being attacked by a tiger at Australia Zoo.

The big cat became "overexcited" during a play session in a tiger show about 2.45pm local time on Tuesday and bit its 30-year-old male trainer on the neck and shoulder.

Australia Zoo director Wes Mennon says a group of co-workers nearby saw the attack and helped drag the trainer away from the tiger.

"At the time of the incident, our emergency response team were on the scene immediately.

"They acted professionally and calmly. My hat goes off to them," he said in a statement.

The man was treated by paramedics at the scene before being flown to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital by the RACQ Careflight helicopter.

He was conscious and breathing, but was suffering from two large puncture wounds, when he was loaded into the helicopter.

Mennon said the trainer had nine years experience with big cats and raised the tiger since it arrived at the zoo as a cub.

"Our priority is the wellbeing of the handler, who is a valued member of our Australia Zoo family," he said.

"Our full support is with the handler and family."

Mennon said Australia Zoo was conducting a full investigation in conjunction with workplace health and safety authorities.

The Australia Zoo keeps three Bengal and eight Sumatran tigers.

RACQ Careflight doctor Andrew Haggerty said the trainer was lucky his injuries weren’t more serious.

"The neck is a very complex area and contains lots of serious structures including blood vessels, and perhaps most importantly the airway ... any bleeding in the area itself could cause significant complications," he told reporters on the Sunshine Coast.

For helicopter pilot Alan Carstens it was a very strange afternoon.

"I honestly thought someone was kidding me, they said it’s a tiger attack, I said 'no', but it was," he told reporters.

"We landed just outside the African (enclosure) area, right next door to where the tigers are.

"I waited with the chopper, I was looking at a tortoise straight opposite me, I thought it was a rock initially, then it started moving."

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- Brisbane Times

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