TAMPA, Fla. — A volunteer received an extreme injury to her arm after being bitten by a tiger at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa Thursday morning.
Candy Couser, who has volunteered with the animal sanctuary for five years and has been a Green Level Keeper for almost three years, was feeding 3-year-old Kimba when she noticed he was not where he was usually fed but instead locked in another section, according to a press release from Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin.
After noticing he was in the other section, Couser, according to the release, "opened a guillotine tunnel door at one end of the tunnel, and when she went to raise the second door she saw it was clipped shut."
"This is our universal signal NOT to open a gate without the coordinator coming to assist, but Candy said she just wasn't thinking when she reached in to unclip it," Baskin said in the release. "It is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it. Kimba grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder."
After reaching in, Kimba bit Couser's arm. He let go of his grip when other volunteers went running to Couser's aid. The volunteers, according to the release, helped Couser with the bleeding until an ambulance arrived and took her to St. Joseph's Hospital.
"Candy was still conscious and insisted that she did not want Kimba Tiger to come to any harm for this mistake," Baskin stated in the release. "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."
Big Cat Rescue later told ABC Action News, "Candy Couser's husband reports that she is going into surgery soon. She can move her fingers and her arm is broken in three places. Her shoulder is badly damaged though. She is conscious but sedated and when the Florida Wildlife officers visited her they said she was able to tell them what happened."
"While it's our understanding that the CDC could demand he be killed and tested for rabies, that's unlikely given the fact that he's vaccinated and Candy does not want him to be killed for doing what comes naturally. Please keep Candy and her family in your hearts, as we will be doing, in hopes for a full recovery," Big Cat Rescue went on to tell us.
Kimba was locked away in the other section because cameras were being installed in the section he's usually fed in.
The Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin, was prominently featured in Netflix’s “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness."
Big Cat Rescue is closed to the public due to the coronavirus outbreak. A post on bigcatrescue.com said the animal rescue is losing $160,000 a month in tour revenue.
Big Cat Rescue and its founder have been the subject of much attention since being featured in “Tiger King." The streaming series stars gun-toting Oklahoma zookeeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison after killing five tigers and plotting to have Baskin murdered.
Baskin was upset with how the show portrayed the captive tiger trade.
“Tiger King" spent much of its time focusing on the feud between Baskin and Maldonado-Passage, which included accusations by him that Baskin was behind the disappearance of her ex-husband, Don Lewis. Baskin has denied that.