Tiger Claws Volunteer at Davenport Sanctuary

Tiger Claws Volunteer at Davenport Sanctuary

Injuries aren’t serious, county agency says.

Published: Saturday, February 9, 2008
By Shoshana Walter

It’s not what he needed.

That’s what Darryl Atkinson said as he spoke of the latest incident at his Horseshoe Creek Wildlife Foundation in Davenport. About noon today, a volunteer was clawed by a tiger while cleaning out its cage, said Gary Morse of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The injuries were not serious, according to Polk County Fire and EMS, and Atkinson said the volunteer, Brenda Chapman of Kissimmee, would be “just fine.”

The commission’s investigation is ongoing, Morse said.

“We don’t know what caused it. Whether it was playing or it was actually going after her leg,” he said.

Atkinson said the tiger, named Kheira, was playing. Chapman, a trained volunteer, got swiped when she stepped too close, he said.

The incident comes on the heels of Atkinson’s Feb. 1 arrest on charges of grand theft and signing a forged instrument. The commission said it found Atkinson accepting money from people on court-ordered probation in exchange for signing off on community service work they did not do. Atkinson stepped down Feb. 2 as president of Horseshoe Creek, which he founded.

He said he expects the commission to send him a citation for Saturday’s incident, review Kheira’s medical history and put her in quarantine.

Morse said a citation is possible.

“That’s just not what I need with all this other stuff,” Atkinson said.

Although the foundation has long been plagued by funding problems, he said he intends to keep the sanctuary open. Atkinson said he has too many animals to care for and is working on relocating some of them. He said he has already relocated at least five big cats in two years.



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