A TIGER handler mauled at Australia Zoo says he’s happy to be back working with the big cat, which he claimed played “a little too rough.”
Dave Styles was pounced on by the tiger, named Charlie, in full view of a shocked audience at the Sunshine Coast attraction in November last year. The handler suffered puncture wounds to his neck and significant blood loss and was flown to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, where he spent 10 days in intensive care.
The 114kg tiger lunged at him after he entered its enclosure with a camera on his head and wearing a blue plastic, poncho-like top as part of preparation for a BBC documentary being filmed at the zoo.
The unfamiliar outfit, designed to replicate garbage bags the playful cats were given as a biting toy, was cited as a reason for the out-of-character attack.
The zoo said the GoPro camera had not been filming at the time; however, photographs of the attack showed the camera’s red operating light was on.
Mr Styles recently returned to work and a personal letter about his ordeal has been published in the zoo’s magazine, Crikey.
“The day that Charlie bit me, he became a little overexcited during his toy session and played a little too rough,” Mr Styles wrote. “Charlie wasn’t intending to injure me and as soon as we had left the enclosure, he was calm and interacting with other handlers.”
Mr Styles signed off his letter with: “Peace, love and tigers.”
A spokeswoman for Australia Zoo said the handler was healthy and happy to be back working but did not want to comment further.