Monday, December 18, 2006

Tiger tears off photographer's ear at Ukraine zoo

Kiev- A Bengal Tiger living in a Ukrainian zoo tore the ear off of an intoxicated photographer falling into the animal's enclosure by accident, Sehodnia newspaper reported Monday. The incident took the city zoo of the Black Sea port Mykolaev after the victim, identified in the report only by his first name Oleg, climbed to the top of the tiger enclosure's six-metre wall in an attempt to take close up snap shots.

The man, described by eyewitnesses as "highly intoxicated", lost his balance and fell into the enclosure, which contained three tigers at the time.

Two of the big cats ignored the intruder, but a fifteen-year old tigress named Alfa reacted aggressively and bit Oleg in the head.

The photographer fought back and called on onlookers for assistance. Members of the general public threw bottles at the tiger, without effect.

Zoo staff were on the scene and gave the tiger a tranquilizer injection shortly after the attack. The tiger released the photographer and an emergency medical team transported Oleg and his severed ear to a city hospital.

Police arriving before the tranquilizers took effect offered to shoot dead the tiger Alfa, a suggestion rejected by zoo personnel.

Surgeons reattached the photographer's ear and closed "numerous deep wounds" in a two hour operation. Oleg reportedly faced "several months in hospital...but is expected to recover fully," according to the article.

Vetrinarians inspecting the tiger found the big cat had strained muscles in a rear limb "and suffered significant stress." The animal otherwise was healthy and Oleg was in no danger of rabies, said Valentina Yakunina, director of the Mykolaev zoo large carnivores' division.

Injuries to Ukrainian zoo visitors from dangerous animals are infrequent, but they do occur, almost always because an intoxicated person had climbed into the animals' enclosure, or tried to feed a zoo animal by hand.

"Members of the general public threw bottles at the tiger..." Only in Ukraine...


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