Tiger ‘nearly tore arm off’ volunteer at Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue

Oliver O'Connell
·3-min read
Carole Baskin, seen here in the Netflix docuseries ‘Tiger King' (Netflix)
Carole Baskin, seen here in the Netflix docuseries ‘Tiger King' (Netflix)

A tiger nearly tore the arm off a volunteer during an incident at animal activist Carole Baskin’s big cat sanctuary in Florida, according to local emergency services.

The incident happened at approximately 8am on Thursday morning at Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue, Hillsborough County fire officials said.

CBS affiliate WTSP-TV reports that Candy Couser, who has been volunteering for give years, was grabbed by a tiger named Kimba.

She was reaching into a cage to unclip a door during feeding time.

"It is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it," Big Cat Rescue wrote in a statement. "Kimba grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder."

Ms Couser’s injuries are serious but not life-threatening according to reports, and an ambulance arrived within 20 minutes and transferred her to nearby St Joseph’s Hospital.

She was aided by another worker when Kimba released his grip. A nurse helped stop the bleeding and another person used a belt as a tourniquet.

"Candy was still conscious and insisted that she did not want Kimba Tiger to come to any harm for this mistake," Big Cat Rescue wrote in a statement.

"He is being placed in quarantine for the next 30 days as a precaution, but was just acting normal due to the presence of food and the opportunity."

The park is currently closed to visitors due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“All of the volunteers and staff on site today met to discuss what happened. Carole reminded everyone that this sort of tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye and that we cannot relax our guard for a second around these dangerous cats,” said the statement. “This happened on the day our federal bill to ban cub handling and private possession comes to the House floor for a vote.”

Big Cat Rescue has been pushing for new laws to regulate the possession of exotic animals.

"The fact that, despite our intense safety protocols and excellent record of safety, an injury like this can occur just confirms the inherent danger in dealing with these animals and why we need the Big Cat Public Safety Act to eliminate having them untracked in backyards around the country and ending up in sanctuaries where wonderful people like Candy Couser have committed themselves to providing care for those discarded by the pay to play industry.” the statement added.

Ms Baskin became famous earlier this year after being featured in the Netflix documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.

She has since appeared on Dancing with the Stars on ABC.

Since the release of the Netflix docuseries, Ms Baskin has been the subject of great attention around her apparent feud with Joe Exotic, once owner of a big cat zoo in Oklahoma.

Mr Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is currently serving 22 years in prison for plotting to have Ms Baskin murdered, and for the killing of five tigers.

In addition to shining a light on the trade in captive tigers in the US, one of the more sensationalist aspects of the series was Mr Exotic’s accusing Ms Baskin of being responsible for the disappearance of her late husband, Don Lewis.

Ms Baskin denied any part in Mr Lewis’s disappearance, and was unhappy with the show’s portrayal of her sanctuary and the trade in captive tigers.

In June, a judge handed control of Mr Exotic’s GW Exotic Animal Memorial Park to Ms Baskin. Since then, all exotic animals have been relocated and the zoo has been shut down, according to a statement from Howard Baskin, Ms Baskin’s current husband.

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