A keeper was mauled to death yesterday by a rogue Siberian tiger at a predator park near Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) in South Africa, after the electric fence to its enclosure was turned off for maintenance. The tiger then went on to kill another tiger.
Jasper, a male Siberian tiger, scaled the 12-foot high fence when the power was switched off to get at David Solomon, 52, who was on the other side.
The terrified keeper apparently saw the 675lb big cat, which was 5 foot tall, sprinting towards him and desperately tried to scale another fence but the tiger dragged him down.
The tiger apparently bit David several times, and snapped his neck.
The testosterone-fuelled tiger then scaled another fence, where the power was also off, to get at a rival male Siberian tiger called Judah… which it killed in a ferocious big-cat fight.
It was then attempting to mate with Judah’s sibling, a female Siberian tiger called Amber, when Kragga Kamma Veterinary Hospital and Nature Conservation were called in.
A vet darted both Jasper and Amber so that when they were tranquilised they could enter a passageway to remove the remains of tragic David and retrieve tiger Judah’s body as well.
A former employee at Seaview Predator Park said: “David was a loyal member of staff and had worked with the tigers for 15 years, and had known Jasper since he was a cub.
“Just last March David was part of a team who moved Jasper and his sibling Jade into their new enclosure to meet the public for the first time after they were tranquilised for the move.
“Both Jasper and Jade had spent about eight years, since they were cubs, in a rear area away from the public, but when a lion died the park decided to put Jasper and Jade in its old enclosure.
“Jasper was a very big tiger and you had to be careful around him, and I heard he had attacked a human before but David had cared for him since he was a cub and loved him,” she said.
A spokesperson for Seaview Predator Park said: “It is with deep regret that we can confirm the death of our employee David Solomon after he was attacked by a Siberian tiger.
“The electric fencing in the enclosure housing our Siberian tigers Jasper and Jade was being repaired when Jasper jumped on the exterior fence and got out.”
David was unfortunately in the passageway between two tiger enclosures walking towards the water supply taps when the incident occurred and Jasper got out.
David attempted to climb the fence of a different enclosure to get to safety but was pulled off the fence by Jasper.
“We confirm that David obviously had bite marks but it would seem that Jasper broke David’s neck when he pulled David off the fence.
“Jasper then jumped the exterior fence of the next-door enclosure which houses Siberian Tigers Judah and Amber and a fight ensued between Judah and Jasper.
“Judah was killed. Jasper, being an entire male Siberian tiger, wanted the attention of Amber, an entire female Siberian Tiger, who was in the enclosure with Judah.
“When the incident occurred management immediately closed the Park and assisted members of the public who were near the tiger enclosures to exit the Park.
“Members of the public who were at the restaurant were kept there until it was safe for them to return to their vehicles and exit the Park after the police arrived.
“David Solomon had been at the Seaview Predator Park for about 15 years and knew each of the animals since they were cubs.
“We are all one big family and the loss of David has left every one of us heartbroken and traumatised, specifically the staff and volunteers present when this occurred.
“David’s presence, jokes, willingness to teach our young volunteers and bubbling personality is going to be missed so much.
“We send our heartfelt condolences to his family and close friends and may his dear soul rest in peace.
“We would like to confirm that all the large cats are safely contained in their enclosures and the electric fencing is fully functional,” said the spokesperson.
“Jasper’s incident is a first at the park and was fuelled by hormones, and he is now calm and content in an enclosure with Amber and there are no plans to destroy Jasper.
“At no stage was any member of the public in any immediate danger and our request that visitors leave immediately is standard protocol should such an incident occur.
“Jasper is very much alive and both Jasper and Amber were tranquillized by the vet and spent the night in their night cages while we ensure the electric fencing is secure”.
Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg of the South African Police Service said: “Detectives are investigating an inquest after a man was attacked by a tiger.
“It is alleged that on Wednesday at approximately 15.30pm an employer was working on an electric fence at one of the tiger enclosures when a tiger jumped the fence.
“The tiger attacked the worker and it is confirmed the worker died at the scene,” she said.
The Seaview Predator Park is just outside Qbeberha, overlooking the Indian Ocean and set in 120 hectares. It is home to tigers, lions, lynx and leopards.
It also has crocodiles, zebra, giraffes, snakes and many types of antelope. Guests pay to drive through the enclosures in their cars for a game viewing experience.
Siberian Tigers are from the Russian Far East, North East China and North Korea and there are only 500 left in the wild. They can run at up to 50mph and weigh up to 380kg.