A female employee at Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park in Wynnewood, Okla., was bitten by an adult tiger on Saturday morning after she stuck her hand inside a tiger cage in violation of zoo safety protocol, according to the park's owner and local authorities.
Doctors were able to save the woman's arm, according to a post on the zoo's Facebook page.
"She has a long road of repairs ahead of her but this is a miracle and thanks for the prayers everyone," the post read.
The Garvin County Sherrif’s Department responded at 10:27 a.m. Saturday to a call reporting that an accident had taken place at the park, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.
“When she reached into the cage, the tiger clamped up on her hand all the way up to her elbow,” said Jim Mullet, undersheriff at the Garvin County Sheriff’s Office. “She was able to pull her arm out -- it wasn’t chopped in half, but she sustained severe injuries,” he said.
According to a statement from Joe Schreibvogel, the park’s owner, the female employee “was wearing a large goose down jacket which got bunched up inside the cage wire not allowing her hand back outside the cage wire fast enough and the tiger grabbed her hand pulling her left arm through a 4-inch-square hole.”
Park staff managed to get the tiger off the employee and provided medical assistance until Emergency Medical Services were able to respond, according to the Sherriff’s office.
The employee was then transferred to the Pauls Valley General Hospital and later airlifted to OU Medical Center at the University of Oklahoma for surgery. A spokesman for OU Medical Center said the employee, whose age was not immediately clear, was in “fair” condition.
Schreibvogel said the tiger would not be euthanized as a result of the accident.
“There was an employee error of violating the safety protocols of placing any part of the body inside the cage," he said. "The tiger will not be put down and our thoughts and prayers are with the member of our staff that was injured.”
The park will remain closed until the sheriff’s office investigation is complete.
The woman's name was not released.