Special Report
forwarded by AAF Correspondent: Mike Donahoe

From the Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tiger attacks zookeeper

Sunday, February 28, 1999

By Meghan Hoyer The Journal Gazette

A tiger at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo attacked a zookeeper Saturday, the first time an animal at the zoo has attacked someone, zoo Director Jim Anderson said.

Shari Strickler-Shaw, 37, suffered scratches and cuts on her back, neck and chest, Tom Shoemaker, an emergency medical services supervisor, said. She was taken to Parkview Hospital, where she was listed in serious condition Saturday night.

"This is the worst thing that can happen," Anderson said. "We're just relieved that she's not hurt worse."

Strickler-Shaw was cleaning the cage of Besar, now the zoo's only tiger, when Besar attacked, Anderson said. Strickler-Shaw had been working while the tiger was in the same cage, a violation of the zoo's rules, Anderson said.

Policy calls for the tiger to be in another pen, separated by two locked doors, while the keepers clean and put out food for the animal.

"He's not supposed to be within eight feet of you," Anderson said.

Michelle Lemberg, another zookeeper working nearby, heard Strickler-Shaw's yelling and rushed to use pepper spray on the tiger. When Besar drew back from the spray, Lemberg pulled the injured zookeeper out of the cage.

"Without the second zookeeper, this would've been a grave situation," Shoemaker said. "She saved her life. The zookeeper did an excellent job."

Anderson said the zoo won't get rid of the tiger because of the attack. "These aren't pets. The animal was dangerous before today and will be after today."

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