Malaysian tiger named Eko in Naples, Florida’s zoo shot dead after grabbing a man’s arm, zoo says

An 8-year-old Malaysian tiger in a Florida zoo was shot dead after grabbing the arm of a cleaning assistant and pulling it into its enclosure Wednesday night, officials said. The cleaner, as police say, broke a barrier to get close to the animal, was brought by air to a hospital and was in reasonable condition.

Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens says it was closed for the day when the man, who works for a third-party cleaning service, “entered an unauthorized area near a tiger that was inside its enclosure.”

“The cleaning company is responsible for cleaning the restrooms and the gift shop, not the animal enclosures,” the zoo said. It is not clear why the man approached the tiger’s enclosure.

Tiger Eco is seen at Naples Zoo in Naples, Florida
The tiger Eko, who was killed after biting a man’s arm as he crossed into an unauthorized part of Naples Zoo, is seen in Naples, Florida on a distribution photo taken in March 2021.

Napoli Zoo / Handout via Reuters


According to the zoo, the man petted or fed the tiger, named Eko, “both of which are unauthorized and dangerous activities.” The man was later identified by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office as 26-year-old River Rosenquist.

In a statement delivered to CBS News by the zoo Thursday afternoon, the sheriff’s office said Rosenquist “put his hand through the fence,” causing the tiger to grab his hand and pull his arm into the fence. A deputy responded on the spot and tried unsuccessfully to get the tiger to release Rosenquist’s arm, so a co-officer “stood with no choice but to shoot the animal to save Rosenquist’s life,” the sheriff’s office said.

Body camera video released by the department showed the man screaming in pain on one side of a fence, with the tiger on the other side with his hand in his mouth. An officer appears to be trying to stuff the tiger in an attempt to scare it away, but the tiger does not move. Shortly after, another officer fires a shot.

The tiger withdrew to the back of the fence after it was shot, making it difficult to determine the extent of its damage, the sheriff’s office said. A zoo veterinarian later reassured the tiger so officials could determine that Eko had been shot dead.

“Our deputy did everything he could in that situation, and he ultimately made the only possible decision he could to save this man’s life,” Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said in the statement.

The zoo says Malaysian tigers are critically endangered, with only about 200 left in the wild.

The zoo mourned Eko’s death on Thursday. “He will be deeply missed and we sincerely appreciate the love and support from the community as we navigate this difficult time,” the zoo said in a statement.

Omar Villafranca contributed with reporting.

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