A man was mauled by a Siberian Tiger Monday morning after he and a friend scaled the fence of the Calgary Zoo and pressed up against the tiger cage, zoo officials said during a press conference.
“The information we have is that while his injuries appear not to be life-threatening, they are, however, quite serious,” Graham Netwon, the Zoo’s director and Chief Financial Officer, said at a press conference Monday. Officials said two men scaled the zoo’s 8-foot perimeter fence, which is also covered in barbed wire, at about 1:00 a.m. Monday morning. The two 27-year-old men, who were not identified, then headed towards the tiger cage where they scaled a safety fence meant to keep the public away from the tiger. The two men never entered the cage — but stood in between the safety fence and another fence meant to “keep the tigers in” when they startled a 2-year-old Siberan tiger named Vitali. “[Vitali] has a fairly significant armament at his disposal: very sharp claws,” said Dr. Sandie Black, the zoo’s head vet. Officials said once the tiger was startled, he probably clawed at one of the men. “My guess would be that the gentleman was hooked by a claw and the arm dragged in and then continued to be attacked from that point,” Black said during the press conference. The second man then struggled to help his friend escape the tiger’s grasp, officials said. Officials at the zoo said the tiger was likely trying to protect itself. “He’s perfectly fine. A tiger is a carnivore, so they’re going to behave naturally, and that’s his natural reaction,” Sinclair-Smith said. “Vitali has certainly done nothing wrong here. It’s his natural behavior.” Vitali will remain at the zoo, and in the exhibit, because he was uninjured and did nothing wrong, zoo curator Tim Sinclair-Smith said. Black, the zoo’s vet, said the tiger had not previously attacked any people. “In the normal course of a day,” Black said “Vitali is one our most laid back cats I would say.” Calgary Police Department Acting Staff Sgt. Rick Halford said authorities were investigating the case and will decide whether to pursue charges against either man. Zoo officials and police said they had no idea what the motive was for breaking into the zoo, or nearing the tiger cage. “There’s no indication that the two offenders were involved in anything other than just being silly, I suppose,” Halford said.