A Bengal tiger mauled an Arizona wildlife sanctuary director, seriously injuring him as he tried to move a group of big cats during a heavy thunderstorm this week, the sanctuary announced.
Jonathan Kraft, 73, a former Las Vegas illusionist who serves as the executive director of the Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in Valentine, suffered multiple wounds and two broken bones when the 11-year-old tiger, Bowie, suddenly snatched him and gripped him with his strong teeth Monday, the sanctuary said in a statement.
At the time of the incident, the thunderstorm was intensifying and the nature park was being closed to the public, according to the sanctuary.
Out of concern for several large cats, including Bowie, Kraft took “unilateral action” to move them out of the elements and to another location within the sanctuary, the statement said.
In the process, a “safety protocol had obviously failed,” according to sanctuary officials.
“Jonathan made the decision to shift Bowie’s gates to allow him access to his den box area,” the statement said. “During the process, the usually docile behaving Bowie exhibited unusual conduct by suddenly pushing the gates prior to Jonathan being able to secure the safety clips. Animal Care staff rushed to assist Jonathan and remove him from the tiger’s grip. Although Bowie lacks front claws, he took advantage of his strong teeth to hold onto Jonathan.”
First responders rushed Kraft to Kingman Regional Medical Center, and then he was transported to Las Vegas for further treatment, according to the sanctuary. His recovery is expected to take several months.
Meanwhile, Bowie is “fine” and resting, the sanctuary said. He will not be euthanized as a result of the attack.
“Close contact with wild exotic and native species has not been a practice in many years,” Kraft said in the statement. “My accident with Bowie was my fault. I was concerned for his welfare and did not stay focused on him. It only takes a fraction of a second for a captive wild animal to revert to their instinctual behavior. These situations occur when there is human error.”
Bowie arrived at the sanctuary in September 2018. He was declawed as a young cub, causing lameness to both feet, according to the sanctuary.
Years ago, Kraft became the first local entertainer to stop using big cats in his performances — and urged other performers to do the same.
Photo Credit: The Mirror