ALPINE, Calif. — A 7-year-old tiger at Alpine's Lions Tigers & Bears animal rescue facility died of injuries inflicted by a fellow tiger this week.
Maverick suffered fatal injuries after he and the other tiger, Moka, were accidentally allowed to come into contact with one another on Monday. The animals were living in separate enclosures, according to Lions Tigers & Bears founder Bobbi Brink, who said no staff or visitors were harmed.
The staff veterinarian assessed both animals afterward. Moka has scratches, but no serious injuries.
"This was a human error, and one we're so deeply heartbroken about," Brink said. "When caring for a 400-plus-pound apex predator, layered safety measures must be established, and this is exactly what we've implemented at our accredited sanctuary since our founding.
"Unfortunately, one of our safety measures was mistakenly missed, and because these magnificent, massive animals are wild, their reactions to their surroundings, especially new situations, are unpredictable," she said.
According to Brink, the nonprofit organization regularly conducts staff safety trainings, including one on emergency protocols last weekend. She said the protocols will be reviewed extensively this week.
Maverick was rescued on April 20, 2014, at 9 months old. He was born in captivity and purchased illegally by someone who did not have the proper licensing to own an exotic animal. California Fish & Wildlife personnel seized Maverick and reached out to Lions Tigers & Bears to provide him with a home.
"There is an inherent risk when keeping apex predators in captivity, and we would like nothing more than to see an end to this, but until then, and as long as our sanctuary is needed, we will continue to be there for these animals in need," Brink said. "Maverick, we will miss your friendly chuffs and curious, fun-loving spirit. Rest easy our sweet boy, run free, and keep on swimming."