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Trainer mauled by tiger at zoo

30-year-old tiger trainer is in a serious condition after being bitten by one of his charges at Australia Zoo. Nine News.

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A senior tiger handler is in a serious but stable condition after being attacked by a tiger at Australia Zoo.

The big cat became ‘‘overexcited’’ during a play session in a tiger show about 2.45pm on Tuesday and bit its 30-year-old male trainer on the neck and shoulder.

Australia Zoo director Wes Mennon says a group of co-workers nearby saw the attack and helped drag the trainer away from the tiger.

The tiger attacks the trainer at Australia Zoo.

The tiger attacks the trainer at Australia Zoo. Photo: Seven News

‘‘At the time of the incident, our emergency response team were on the scene immediately.

They acted professionally and calmly. My hat goes off to them,’’ he said in a statement.

The man was treated by paramedics at the scene before being flown to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital by the RACQ Careflight helicopter.

An Australia Zoo worker rushes to the trainer's aid.

An Australia Zoo worker rushes to the trainer's aid. Photo: Seven News

He was conscious and breathing, but was suffering from two large punture wounds, when he was loaded into the helicopter.

Mr Mennon said the trainer had nine years experience with big cats and raised the tiger since it arrived at the zoo as a cub.

‘‘Our priority is the wellbeing of the handler, who is a valued member of our Australia Zoo family,’’ he said.

The tiger launches itself at its handler in front of terrified onlookers at Australia Zoo.

The tiger launches itself at its handler in front of terrified onlookers at Australia Zoo. Photo: Seven News

‘‘Our full support is with the handler and family.’’

Mr Mennon said Australia Zoo was conducting a full investigation in conjunction with workplace health and safety authorities.

The Australia Zoo keeps three Bengal and eight Sumatran tigers.

A medical crew treat the injured trainer.

A medical crew treat the injured trainer. Photo: Nine News

RACQ Careflight doctor Andrew Haggerty said the trainer was lucky his injuries weren’t more serious.

‘‘The neck is a very complex area and contains lots of serious structures including blood vessels, and perhaps most importantly the airway ... any bleeding in the area itself could cause significant complications,’’ he told reporters on the Sunshine Coast.

For helicopter pilot Alan Carstens it was a very strange afternoon.

The RACQ Careflight chopper at Australia Zoo, where a tiger bit a trainer on the neck.

The RACQ Careflight chopper at Australia Zoo, where a tiger bit a trainer on the neck. Photo: Nine News

‘‘I honestly thought someone was kidding me, they said it’s a tiger attack, I said ‘no’, but it was,’’ he told reporters.

‘‘We landed just outside the African (enclosure) area, right next door to where the tigers are.

‘‘I waited with the chopper, I was looking at a tortoise straight opposite me, I thought it was a rock initially, then it started moving.’’

AAP with Natalie Bochenski

 

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