An Arizona wildlife sanctuary director, and former Las Vegas illusionist, was mauled by a Bengal tiger when he was attempting to move a group of big cats during a thunderstorm earlier this week.
Jonathan Kraft, the director of the Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in Valentine, Arizona, was injured by Bowie, an 11-year-old tiger, on Monday. Kraft suffered multiple wounds and two broken bones, according to a statement released by the sanctuary on Facebook.
On Monday, as the thunderstorm was starting to intensify, Kraft took "unilateral action" to move the big cats from outside to a location inside the sanctuary.
"Due to the increasing intensity of Monday’s thunderstorm the wildlife sanctuary was closing the park to the public and initiating the standard animal safety procedures," the statement read. "Animal Care staff members work in pairs when opening the various species to their holding and den box areas."
Kraft was shifting Bowie's gate to give the tiger access to his den box area. During this time, the "usually docile behaving Bowie exhibited unusual conduct" and pushed the gates before Kraft secured the safety clips.
"Animal Care staff rushed to assist Jonathan and remove him from the tiger’s grip. Although Bowie lacks front claws, he took advantage of his strong teeth to hold onto Jonathan," the statement said. Bowie first came to the sanctuary in September 2018; he was declawed as a cub resulting in lameness to both of his feet.
Kraft was taken to Kingman Regional Medical Center by first responders and then transported to Las Vegas for further treatment. The sanctuary reports that his recovery will take several months.
“Close contact with wild exotic and native species has not been a practice in many years,” Kraft, who has long been a proponent for animals, having stopped using big cats in his performances years ago and urging other performers to follow suit, said in the statement. “My accident with Bowie was my fault. I was concerned for his welfare and did not stay focused on him. It only takes a fraction of a second for a captive wild animal to revert to their instinctual behavior. These situations occur when there is human error.”
"Bowie is fine and resting in his habitat and we will not euthanize him because of the accident," the sanctuary said.
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