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A Volunteer At Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue Just Nearly Had Her Arm Ripped Off By A Tiger

fupp/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/GettyImages; Big Cat Rescue/Facebook

A volunteer who had been working at Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida, for five years nearly had her arm ripped off while feeding a tiger.

Local news picked up the story.

Baskin, who rose to popularity on Netflix’s docuseries Tiger King and later competed on Dancing With The Stars, said Thursday’s incident is a reminder that:

“tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye and that we cannot relax our guard for a second around these dangerous cats.”

According to Big Cat Rescue’s Facebook page, Candy Couser—a five-year volunteer and a “Green Level Keeper (lions, tigers, etc.) for almost three years” at the animal sanctuary—was about to feed a tiger named Kimba, who was locked in an area of the cage where he is usually not fed.

The organization wrote on Facebook:

“Kimba had been locked away from that section for several days as cameras were being installed there.”

“[Couser] opened a guillotine tunnel door at one end of the tunnel, and when she went to raise the second door she saw it was clipped shut.”

“This is our universal signal NOT to open a gate without the coordinator coming to assist, but Candy said she just wasn’t thinking when she reached in to unclip it.”

“It is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it.”


Subsequently, Kimba grabbed hold of Couser’s arm and “nearly tore it off at the shoulder.”

A staff member named Marc pulled Couser to safety after Kimba released his grip.

Marc used his belt as a tourniquet while the sanctuary’s nurse “held off the artery under Candy’s armpit to stop the bleeding” and “packed her arm in ice packs to try and save it.”

The ambulance arrived within 15 – 20 minutes of the accident.

Baskin added Couser was conscious while being transported to the hospital and insisted Kimba not be harmed “for this mistake.”

Kimba is being quarantined for 30 days as a precautionary measure.

Grief counseling is being offered to volunteers and staff members in the wake of the tragic incident in which Baskin confirmed  Kimba “was just acting normal due to the presence of food and the opportunity.”

The accident happened to coincide on the day Congress was scheduled to vote on the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would ban illegal tiger trade and place further limitations on ownership of wild animals.

Baskin stressed the importance of the bill, saying:

“The fact that, despite our intense safety protocols and excellent record of safety, an injury like this can occur just confirms the inherent danger in dealing with these animals and why we need the Big Cat Public Safety Act to eliminate having them untracked in backyards around the country and ending up in sanctuaries where wonderful people like Candy Couser have committed themselves to providing care for those discarded by the pay to play industry.”

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Commission spokeswoman Melody Kilborn said The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement is conducting an investigation—which is standard practice for cases like this involving wildlife sanctuaries.

Koh Mochizuki

Written by Koh Mochizuki

Koh Mochizuki is a New York-based actor and writer. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, he received his B.A. in English literature and is fluent in Japanese. Disney parks are his passion, and endless cups of coffee are a necessity. Instagram: kohster Twitter: @kohster1