A Big Cat Rescue volunteer was the one in need of rescuing after a tiger nearly tore off her arm on Thursday, December 3. Carole Baskin — who owns the tiger sanctuary, which was featured on Netflix's hit docuseries Tiger King — has spoken out after her employee was transported to the hospital for a "serious injury."
Big Cat Rescue volunteer Candy Couser. Photo: Big Cat Rescue/Instagram
Baskin released a statement, explaining: "This morning, during feeding, Candy Couser, who has been a volunteer at Big Cat Rescue for five years, and a Green Level Keeper (lions, tigers, etc.) for almost three years was feeding Kimba Tiger," she said. "She saw that he was locked in a section that was away from where he was usually fed and radiod the coordinator to find out why. Kimba had been locked away from that section for several days as cameras were being installed there."
The 59-year-old explained Couser opened one end of the tunnel gate and went to open the second when she noticed 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," the CEO's statement read. "It is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it. Kimba grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder."
The tiger released his grip on Couser's arm after other employees ran to the scene when they heard the commotion. One staffer, who is a nurse, "held off the artery" and packed Couser's arm with ice packs "to try and save it" while another used his belt as a tourniquet. The police arrived to the scene 20 minutes later. Couser remained conscious and begged that the tiger be kept safe after the incident. "She did not want Kimba Tiger to come to any harm for this mistake," Baskin added.
Baskin said the tiger was "just acting normal due to the presence of food and the opportunity," but is being placed in quarantine for 30 days as a precautionary measure. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating the incident.
The tiger occurrence comes weeks after Baskin was kicked off season 29 of Dancing With The Stars. During her final performance on September 28, Baskin and her partner, Pasha Pashkov, dressed in lion costumes to perform a dance to "Circle of Life." Despite getting the boot, Baskin succeeded in her mission at keeping the "cats at the forefront."
"I think all of the awareness that is raised from this has been wonderful for the cats," she said following her elimination. "That's been my main reason for being here is to try and end the cub petting and the private possession of big cats."
Baskin rose to fame after the Netflix hit docuseries — which followed Joe Exotic, a flamboyant man with a love of big cats, around his animal park in Oklahoma and his rivalry with Baskin — debuted earlier this year. She previously told GMA that her life has been a "nightmare" since Tiger King aired at the start of lockdown. "Well, Tiger King really glamorized animal abusers and villainized me for trying to stop animal abuse," she dished. "So, I felt really betrayed by that. But what amazed me was how many people believed that false portrayal of me without doing anything to find out who I really am."