Doctors are struggling to save the arm of an employee at the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park in Wynnewood, Okla., after a tiger mauled her Saturday morning.
An account issued by the Garvin County Sheriff's Office states that at approximately 10:27 a.m., witnesses saw the young female employee stick her arm in between cage bars, "to either place or remove a lock on a smaller cage where the tiger was located."
A later statement released by the zoo said the woman was wearing a "large goose down jacket" that got bunched and caught in the cage wire, and the employee was unable to retract her arm fast enough.
The more than 400-pound tiger bit and held onto her outstretched limb, while the unidentified employee struggled to remove it unsuccessfully. A fellow employee managed to help get the tiger off and rendered aid until help arrived.
The woman was airlifted to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City where she underwent surgery several hours later.
Park owner Joe Schreibvogel said his employee remained conscious and alert throughout the ordeal and said that "it was her fault and plans to return to work."
"This was an employee error of violating the safety protocols of placing any part of the body inside a cage," Schreibvogel said in a statement. "The tiger will not be put down and our thoughts and prayers are with the member of our staff that was injured."
The name of the employee has not been released pending her family being notified.
The park closed its gates to visitors following the incident. The website said that "all of the staff members that work on the park are volunteers" and "live here on property so that they can care for the animals 7 days a week, 365 days a year."