Tiger attacks Arizona animal sanctuary director, former Las Vegas illusionist

PHOTO: Bowie, an 11-year-old tiger, attacked the director of the animal sanctuary where he lives on Monday, April 22, 2019.PlayKeepers of the Wild
WATCH Zookeeper mauled by tiger identified

The director of an animal sanctuary in Arizona was seriously injured on Monday when he was attacked by a tiger at the facility.

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Jonathan Kraft, the director and founder of Keepers of the Wild, was moving the 11-year-old tiger to a safer area during a heavy rainstorm and was attacked by the normally docile animal.

"Jonathan was concerned for the welfare of several large cats in his approximate area including the tiger and took unilateral action to allow them access to protection from the elements," the sanctuary said in a statement on Wednesday. "During that process, a safety protocol had obviously failed resulting in the incident."

Kraft was flown to a hospital in Las Vegas where he was treated for "multiple wounds and two broken bones." The sanctuary said he will take several months to recover.

PHOTO: Bowie, an 11-year-old tiger, attacked the director of the animal sanctuary where he lives on Monday, April 22, 2019. Keepers of the Wild
Bowie, an 11-year-old tiger, attacked the director of the animal sanctuary where he lives on Monday, April 22, 2019.

The tiger, Bowie, was taken into the sanctuary last year after previously being owned as a pet. The animal was declawed as a cub and had difficulty walking, the sanctuary said.

The sanctuary said in its statement that Kraft "made the decision to shift Bowie’s gates to allow him access to his den box area. During the process, the usually docile behaving Bowie exhibited unusual conduct by suddenly pushing the gates prior to Jonathan being able to secure the safety clips."

Bowie bit down on Kraft, before other staffers freed him from the tiger's jaws.

The tiger will not be euthanized, the sanctuary said.

Keepers of the Wild is a nonprofit that cares for 150 exotic animals, including tigers, lions, leopards, bears and wolves. The facility is open to visitors, but was being closed due to the storm, the sanctuary said.

PHOTO: The founder of Keepers of the Wild animal sanctuary in Valentine, Ariz., was attacked on Monday, April 22, 2019. Google Maps
The founder of Keepers of the Wild animal sanctuary in Valentine, Ariz., was attacked on Monday, April 22, 2019.

The facility was established in 1995 in Las Vegas, but later relocated to rural Valentine, Arizona, about two hours southeast of Las Vegas.

Kraft previously worked as an entertainer on the Las Vegas Strip, appearing in shows with two tigers he trained starting as cubs. He initially started the sanctuary as a place for retired animals from stage shows and eventually decided to cut animals out of his shows entirely.

The sanctuary said it was conducting an internal investigation into the accident.

The attack was the second by a tiger in a matter of days in the U.S., after a zookeeper at the Topeka Zoo was mauled on Saturday. The keeper, identified as Kristyn Hayden-Ortega on Tuesday, was removed from the intensive care unit a day after the attack and is expected to make a full recovery from puncture wounds to her head, neck, back and arms.

ABC News' Olivia Rubin contributed to this report.

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