Things went horribly wrong at the Naples Zoo in Florida on Wednesday evening.
As The Blast previously reported, an eight-year-old Malayan tiger named Eko was shot and killed after it grabbed the arm of a cleaning service worker who reached into its enclosure on Wednesday night. The worker did not work for the zoo and was an employee of a third-party cleaning service responsible for cleaning guest areas and restrooms.
Eko joined the Naples Zoo last year in a conservation effort to protect its species and was the zoo’s only tiger. Malayan tigers are critically endangered, with only about 200 of them left in the wild.
According to a statement on the zoo’s website: “Eko is a great ambassador for his species. When guests see him, we hope they fall in love and want to learn how they can do their part to save his cousins in the wild.”
After the news went viral, many reached out to another Florida native for her take.
Carole Baskin Releases Statement Concerning Tragic Tiger Killing
If you haven’t watched “Tiger King,” or its hit-or-miss sequel, Carole Baskin is the CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Citrus Park, Florida. Baskin described herself as “outraged” when she heard the news.
“The blood of Eko tiger is on the hands of those who show off on TV and social media touching big cats,” she said in a statement, blaming the way tigers are portrayed on television for giving people a sense of entitlement when handling them.
“People see others behaving stupidly online and showing off,” she continued. “Then they think they can do that too and it ends in tragedy.”
‘Once They Become Adults, They Will Kill You,’ Baskin Warns
She warned that adult tigers are extremely dangerous and cannot be domesticated like regular cats.
“Once they become adults, they will kill you,” she continued. “Just like Eko, who was 8-years-old. He became an adult when he was about 5-years-old, and it was not safe to touch him after that point.”
However, Baskin does not put her blame solely on the Florida man who reached his hand into the cage. She also placed the blame on zoos for displaying animals in “captivity.”
“It’s just wrong,” she added. “So please, never pay to see a captive big cat unless it’s at a sanctuary where they’ve been rescued and given a safe place for the rest of their lives, but they’re never bred for life in captivity.”
‘Justice For Eko’ Petition Begins
The man who stuck his arm in the cage, River Rosenquist, 26, was taken to a nearby hospital, where he is said to be in serious condition. A Change.org petition called “Justice for Eko” has been set up, calling for Rosenquist to be criminally charged.
“Eko’s death is 100% the result of this man’s actions,” the petition stated. “He worked for a 3rd party cleaning company and was not authorized to be in that area. Charges of criminal nature MUST be filed, and while the man has suffered medical consequences he must be held accountable for the loss.”
As of this writing, the petition has gained 4,651 signatures, just shy of its goal of 5,000 signatures.