TODAY   |  October 06, 2013

Zoo owner: ‘Tiger was just being a tiger’ to bite worker

An employee at in Oklahoma zoo was bitten by a 450-pound tiger on Saturday morning after she stuck her hand inside a tiger cage, in violation of zoo protocol. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a zoo employee in oklahoma is lucky to be alive today after a tiger attacked her when she stuck her arm in its cage. kerry sanders is at the zoo with an update this morning. kerry, good morning.

>> reporter: well, good morning, erica. that zoo keeper here indeed is lucky to be alive. the tiger that attacked her wasp in a cage like this one here. that tiger has now been removed and is in quarantine. this is what they believe happened here. the zoo owner says the zookeeper reached through the fencing here like this and when the tiger came in, she tried to pull her arm back, the jacket or maybe a glove got caught and that is when the tiger attacked. the gw exotic animal park has more than 100 tigers across its 46 acres. a private zoo with so many tigers and lions, not all have names. this is a snapshot of tiger number 7, the 14-year-old, 450-pound male tiger that attacked the big cat supervisor, a woman in her 20s. she was attacked, says the zoo owner, when she reached into the cage with her left arm .

>> i feel bad that this has happened. and right now my only concern is that the doctors saved her arm and she'll be able to keep her arm.

>> reporter: why did the tiger attack ? one theory here is could be the smell of goose down from the jacket she was wearing. despite the tiger now tasting human flesh, zoo owner says he will aggressively defend any suggestions the tiger now needs to be put down.

>> you want to use the word "attacked", "mauled", the tiger was in his cage. and she stuck her arm in the cage. so it was an accident. but if the tiger was just being a tiger .

>> reporter: since 1990 , the humane society has documented more than 300 big cat incidents in the united states . often the cause, just as is now believed to be the case in oklahoma, human error . experts say those who work around big cats often drop their guard.

>> people have a bad misconception. they tend to associate these animals as some type of domestic pet, some type of companion. they're not companions. these are wild animals .

>> reporter: in 2006 , the animal rights group , peta, accused the zoo here of mistreating the animals. but the federal government and the state investigated and found no mistreatment. in fact, the zoo here says that they accept animals, rescue animals, being mistreated elsewhere. erica?

>> all right, kerry sanders for us this morning, thanks.

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