Zoo Owner Talks About Tiger Mauling At Wynnewood Animal Sanctuary
WYNNEWOOD, Oklahoma - An employee from the G.W. Interactive Zoological Park was mauled by a 14-year-old tiger on Saturday after apparently violating safety protocol, according to the Zoo's Owner Joe Schreibvogel.
Schreibvogel told News 9 that the female employee stuck her hand into the tiger's cage when her sleeve became stuck and tiger attacked. He said the staff at the zoo immediately started emergency procedures and called in a medical chopper.
"The hardest thing that I'm having to deal with is somebody lost an arm because of what I built here," said Schreibvogel. "She was awake the entire time, saying that it was her fault, her fault. But you can just never be ready for someone to lose and arm, you know?"
Schreibvogel said he was the first one to respond to the scene within a minute of the mauling.
"I was the one to respond to give her medical care and placed a tourniquet on her arm and tried to stop the bleeding."
He said there was not much he could do once he responded because the tiger had already taken off much of the woman's arm. The employee has worked at the G.W. Zoo for about a year. Schreibvogel said she was a good employee who made a mistake. The tiger has lived at the park for three years and according to Schreibvogel it has never shown any aggression.
"Any tiger could do this with anybody who sticks a hand in the cage," explained Schreibvogel. "We put them through and extensive safety training and we pound it in their head every morning and every night and at employee meetings that you do not place any part of your body inside of a cage."
Schreibvogel said he and the rest of the staff were shocked by the mauling and were trying to make sense of what happened.
"My heart goes out to her that one of my tigers did this but she assured me, even in the helicopter that she was going to come back to work."
Investigators closed the park Saturday until they get permission to reopen it. That would come after the USDA gets involved.
"It's not a criminal action. It's more of a tragic accident but we responded, I've got wildlife out here with us also. USDA is going to be involved," said Garvin County Undersheriff Jim Mullett.
Schreibvogel said authorities assured him after the attack that the tiger would not have to be put down because it appeared the employee violated the safety rules.
Doctors at OU Medical Center tell News 9 they were able to save the woman's arm.