Caldwell Zoo And Local Tiger Refuge Speak About Deadly Tiger Attack - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/26/07- East Texas

Caldwell Zoo And Local Tiger Refuge Speak About Deadly Tiger Attack

Tiger exhibits are one of the most popular, including the Caldwell Zoo, home to two year-and-a-half old white tigers.

"You don't want to think that you have to be concerned about your safety to go to a zoo. But for the most part zoo's go out of their way to make it a safe environment," said Scott Maddox, Caldwell Zoo Assistant Director. 

Tyler's Caldwell Zoo said its tiger exhibit is secure and handlers haven't seen any unusual aggressiveness with the big cats.

"We really try to keep up with regular maintenance on the facilities and the keepers check the exhibits on a regular basis," said Maddox. 

"It depends on the individual," said Lisa Clay, mammal supervisor at Caldwell.  "Our tigers here are pretty mellow, of course they were hand-raised."

Trainers agree proper handling of tigers is crucial. "Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge" in Smith County is home to nearly 40 rescued big cats, where a hands-on training approach is used.

"It starts when they're cubs and you work with them," said Brian Werner with Tiger Creek.  "You bottle feed them, raise them and you acclimate them. You teach them cage manners and when you're working with a cat you teach it to come to you. You talk to them and communicate."

Even with all the training, Tiger Creek acknowledged it doesn't guarantee safety.

"If you have a domestic cat that's pretty much how a tiger acts. Just escalate that up to 500 pounds," said Werner.  "If a cat's playing with you it can hurt you."

Still, it has some wondering if a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo, who attacked three people, killing one, had been properly trained around people.

"No matter how big the cage is, it's a captive," said Werner. "So you need to start working with those animals so they're not nervous, they're not stressed, and they're not looking to get out."

The Siberian tiger that killed one and injured two others was the same tiger that had attacked a San Francisco zookeeper a year ago.

Courtney Lane, Reporting

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