- A volunteer with five years of experience was bitten by a tiger at Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue on Thursday morning.
- In a Facebook post, Big Cat Rescue said the incident occurred when Candy Couser went to unclip a “guillotine tunnel door” while feeding the animal – which is against Big Cat Rescue’s protocols.
- Big Cat Rescue added that the tiger grabbed Couser’s arm and “nearly tore it off at the shoulder,” though the volunteer said she didn’t want the animal “to come to any harm for this mistake.”
- Baskin, who became famous after the release of Netflix’s “Tiger King” series, previously told Insider that Big Cat Rescue works with a large group of volunteers, though she added that they go through extensive training and “never” receive keys to animal enclosures.
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A volunteer was left with a serious injury after being bitten by a tiger at Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue on Thursday morning.
In a Facebook post, Big Cat Rescue said five-year volunteer Candy Couser was about to feed a tiger named Kimba when she noticed that he was “locked in a section” away from where he’s usually fed.
She then opened a “guillotine tunnel door” that was clipped shut â€” which Big Cat Rescue described as its “universal signal NOT to open a gate without the coordinator coming to assist.”
“Candy said she just wasn’t thinking when she reached in to unclip it,” Big Cat Rescue wrote. “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.”
Insider received an audio recording from Carole Baskin, taken during Big Cat Rescue’s meeting after the incident, that verified the contents of its Facebook post.
Big Cat Rescue went on to say that a staff member named Jane “heard the commotion and came running,” which led Kimba to loosen his grip and allow Couser to “fall away from the side of the tunnel.” Another staff member named Gina, who is a nurse, “held off the artery under Candy’s armpit to stop the bleeding” while a staff member named Marc “used his belt as a tourniquet.” Others called for an ambulance, Gina packed the arm in ice packs “to try and save it,” and the ambulance arrived “within 15 to 20 minutes of the accident,” according to the Facebook post.
“Candy was still conscious and insisted that she did not want Kimba Tiger to come to any harm for this mistake,” the group wrote. “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 added that grief counseling is available “for those who have been impacted by this tragic event.” The organisation also said that Baskin reminded all staff and volunteers 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.”
The group ended its post by saying: “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.”
Big Cat Rescue rose to fame in March after the release of Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’ docuseries
The organisation describes itself online as “one of the largest accredited sanctuaries in the world dedicated to abused and abandoned big cats.” It’s home to more than 50 cats of varying species, all of which were rescued from being “abandoned, abused, orphaned, turned into fur coats,” or “retired from performing acts.” The rescue began in 1992.
Though Baskin has become the face of the sanctuary, she also works with unpaid volunteers.
According to Baskin, those who wish to volunteer at Big Cat Rescue must first pass 50 courses from Zoo College, an online school, as she told Insider in June. From there, they’re required to “observe expert keepers doing a task six times,” and then later “be observed by an expert keeper while they perform the task six times.”
“No one who has actually trained here as a volunteer or intern would ever say they weren’t thoroughly trained and managed,” Baskin said at the time. “At many zoos, a person can be hired to care for big cats and within a week, with no formal training in caring for big cats, have the keys to the cages. Enshala the tiger, who was accidentally set free and then shot to death at the Lowry Park Zoo, was just one sad example.”
“At Big Cat Rescue, a person works with the smaller cats, like 25-pound bobcats to 40-pound lynx, for two years before they can ever even be within three feet of the outside of a big cat’s cage, and they never get the keys,” she continued.
- Read more:
- Carole Baskin addresses criticism over having unpaid volunteers, and says it could not ‘be further from the truth’ that they are unskilled
- Joe Exotic and Jeff Lowe respond to Carole Baskin gaining control of the ‘Tiger King’ zoo: ‘Without our efforts, it is well known that Carole would no longer be here’
- Carole Baskin says she had to let go of half of Big Cat Rescue’s paid staff while she and her husband aren’t taking paychecks
- Carole Baskin says she’s not sure if Big Cat Rescue will open to the public again after ‘Tiger King’