TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – When Carole Baskin learned a rare Malayan tiger was shot and killed at the Naples Zoo, she was outraged.
“The blood of Eko tiger is on the hands of those who show off on TV and social media touching big cats,” she said in a statement.
Baskin is the CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Citrus Park. She gained celebrity status after the “Tiger King” docu-series on Netflix and an appearance on Dancing With the Stars.
She believes people see others on television and online interacting with big cats and it gives them a false sense of security.
“People see others behaving stupidly, online, and showing off,” said Baskin. “Then they think they can do that too and that ends in tragedy. “
The tragedy in this case was the loss of Eko. Investigators say a man who worked for a contracted cleaning company stuck his arm in Eko’s cage. Eko attacked. When a deputy arrived, he shot Eko to save the man.
Baskin says Eko was an adult tiger and extremely dangerous.
“Once they become adults, they will kill you,” said Baskin. “Just like Eko, who was 8-years-old. He became an adult when he was about 5-years-old, and it was not safe to touch him after that point.”
Baskin also places the blame on zoos and other facilities that display animals and charge admission.
“It’s just wrong,” said Baskin. “So please, never pay to see a captive big cat unless it’s at a sanctuary where they’ve been rescued and given a safe place for the rest of their lives, but they’re never bred for life in captivity.”