*Please note TIGER in the comments.
After the Zoo had closed to the public on Wednesday, December 29, River Rosenquist, 26, a member of a third-party cleaning service jumped a public barrier fence into an unauthorized space in front of the Malayan tiger habitat. It is believed that he was trying to feed or pet the tiger through the enclosure fence to the point where the tiger was able to reach him and pull his arm into the enclosure. A CCSO deputy responded to the scene. After the deputy initially tried to get the tiger to release the arm, he was left with no option but to shoot the animal to save the young man’s life. Naples Zoo fully supports the difficult decision that the deputy had to make. It is the same decision that the Zoo's emergency response team would have had to make in this situation. The tiger was confirmed dead by Naples Zoo’s veterinarian.
Questions and Answers:
What can I do to remember Eko?
With a breeding population below 200 tigers in the wild, Naples Zoo is establishing the Eko Tiger Conservation Fund. 100% of the funds received will go to helping save tigers in Malaysia through the efforts of the Wildlife Conservation Society, an organization that Naples Zoo has supported for many years. You can donate online at www.napleszoo.org/donate with the word TIGER in the comment section or send a check payable to “Naples Zoo” mailed to Naples Zoo, Eko Tiger, 1590 Goodlette Rd N, Naples FL 34102-5260.
Was Rosenquist inside the tiger’s habitat?
No. Rosenquist was outside the habitat. He was in the space between the public barrier and the tiger’s containment. He would not be able to enter the tiger’s habitat. With a two-key/two-person safety protocol, Naples Zoo has a system that prevents any single individual ever from willingly or accidentally accessing a dangerous space.
Who fired the shot?
A responding deputy of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. Naples Zoo unequivically supports the CCSO in addressing an incredibly difficult situation with a human life at risk. Naples Zoo's emergency response team would not have elected to use a tranquilizer dart given the immediate crisis.
“Our deputy did everything he could do in that situation, and he ultimately made the only possible decision he could in order to save this man’s life,” said Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk. “This was a tragic encounter at our world-class zoo facility. We value our community partnership with the Naples Zoo and their focus on conservation and education.”
Who was Eko?
Eko was born as part of the Species Survival Plan® coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums on November 12, 2013 at Little Rock Zoo. He later was cared for by Woodland Park Zoo before he arrived in Naples on December 4, 2019. Tigers like Eko are not sold between zoos. They are either loaned or ownership is transferred as part of this collaborative breeding program to maintain the genetic integrity of this critically endangered tiger.
What Safety Measures Does the Zoo Have?
Naples Zoo has four trained emergency responders identified each day including an Incident Commander, Animal Lead, Lead Darter, and Lead Shooter. These staff are ready on-site during open hours and anytime staff are working with animals. The staff also run emergency drills on a variety of different scenarios throughout the year. We also use a two-key/two-person safety protocol that prevents any single individual including our trained carnivore keepers from ever willingly or accidentally accessing a space with a big cat or bear. This event happened after hours when no one is permitted to be shifting or working with the animals and night security is on site.