Rare Malayan tiger shot dead at zoo after biting cleaner's hand

A rare Malay tiger was shot dead at a zoo in Florida after a cleaner employed by a contracting cleaning company put his arm through the fencing. He was in an unauthorised area. It's reported that his behaviour was in breach of contract and reckless. Sadly, it is the tiger who paid with his life despite behaving instinctively.

Eko, The Malayan tiger shot dead by a sheriff's deputy because he would not release the hand of a cleaner
Eko, the Malayan tiger shot dead by a sheriff's deputy because he would not release the hand of a cleaner. The photograph comes from the zoo's Facebook page.

The cleaning company was responsible for cleaning restrooms and the gift shop. They were not responsible for cleaning animal enclosures. Enquiries indicate that the man was either petting or feeding the animal. Reports indicate that the tiger grabbed the man's arm after he traversed an initial barrier and put his arm through the fencing.

The tiger concerned was a four-year-old Malayan tiger whose name was Eko. A sheriff's deputy arrived. He kicked the fence to try and startle the tiger into release the man's arm. It did not work. The deputy shot the tiger. The tiger retreated out of sight. A drone was sent into the enclosure to check his condition. A veterinarian sedated Eko to treat the bullet wound but the tiger died.

"The first deputy on scene kicked the enclosure and tried to get the tiger to release the man's arm from its mouth but the deputy was forced to shoot the animal."

The cleaner is in his 20s. He was seriously injured and flown to hospital by helicopter. He may face prosecution.

There are only about 200 Malayan tigers remaining in the world (as per The Times article on this story). They are native to rainforests of the Malay peninsula in south-east Asia. The species has been forced to the brink of extinction by hunters in the early years and by the loss of habitat to palm oil production.

The zoo concerned is Naples Zoo. This is a human-made tragedy. An act of folly by an employee of a third-party contractor. In my mind, it begs the question as to whether the officer could have avoided shooting the tiger. What about stunning the Tiger with a dart? Perhaps that would have taken too long to arrange. But I fear that the instinct by American police officers to shoot before really thinking things through fully may have contributed to the killing of this rare animal.

Calls to boycott Naples Zoo

The Independent newspaper tells us that this Florida zoo is facing a boycott because they allowed the tiger to be shot. The actions that saved the man have been called into question. The zoo is facing a backlash on social media. Patrons of the zoo are calling for a boycott over the death of Eko.

For example, Allan Bradley posted:

"Justice for Eko! Shut down Naples Zoo! Shame on the Sheriff’s Department! This was and endangered species. He did nothing wrong."

The argument is that if an animal can't be an animal at a zoo, it shouldn't have them. That came from Patricia Jenkins. She wants the director to be fired.

Some Facebook users suggested that the man in question should have been left to fend for himself. While others said that the incident would be the end of the tiger program at the facility.

The news media also reports that the man is stable and clearly his life was never in danger. Although he called out to the police officers asking whether he was going to die.

Note: This is a video from another website which is embedded here. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

Some more on the Malayan tiger

In 2002 Mel and Fiona Sunquist in their excellent book Wild Cats of the World stated that in the 1950s Colonel A. Locke estimated that there were 3,000 tigers in Malaysia. Fiona Sunquist also states that the Indochinese subspecies of the tiger which was found in Myanmar, Thailand, peninsular Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos Vietnam and neighbouring China was thought to number about 1100 to 1800 as a very rough estimate. As mentioned, the book was published in 2002. In 2021, it is believed that there are about 300 Malayan tigers in the wild (250-340 individuals).

There was a time, you know, when the tiger was considered a pest. They had a status no higher than any other pest such as a rat or a squirrel. They were there to be killed at sight. And of course in the early years they were hunted mercilessly. And now the pressure is on to protect and conserve the tiger in Asia including Malaysia. 

But there is increased pressure from increased human population numbers which in turn leads to increased human activity including commercialisation of the landscape such as deforestation to create plantations. However, I'm told that a lot of the forests in Malaysia cannot be utilised in a commercial way and therefore they are protected in practice. Poaching of tigers and the depletion of their prey animals due, once again, to human activity also puts pressure on tiger numbers.

There is an inevitable downward pressure on tigers across the board and they are considered to be Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. This is one step from extinction in the wild.

The Malaysian government enacted legislation to protect the tiger in 1972. Further legislation gave the tiger total protection in 1976. They are confined to relatively small and widely separated national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and forest reserves currently.


Popular posts from this blog

What do tigers eat in the jungle?

Mythology in China - Bai Hu (white tiger)

Can tigers meow?