Jungle Island president, tiger owner charged over escape
The tiger chase of an ape at Jungle Island has resulted in charges against the tiger's owner and the park's president.
Posted on Saturday, 09.04.10
BY PAMELA DUQUE
The president of Jungle Island has been charged with two misdemeanors following the brief escape of a gibbon and a tiger that spurred a lockdown at the facility.
The owner of the male tiger also was charged with one misdemeanor for keeping the animal in conditions that could jeopardize public safety, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Saturday.
Investigators with the agency, known by its acronym FWC, charged the park's president, Bern M. Levine, with two second-degree misdemeanors for conditions resulting in the animals' escape. The FWC investigation concluded that the ape escaped due to human and mechanical error, and the cage in which the tiger was kept does not meet state requirements.
``The investigation revealed that there was about a foot and a half, almost two feet, of mulch added to the floor of the cage, making the cage a little bit lower than it appeared,'' FWC spokesman Jorge Pino said.
Florida law requires the fence of the cage to be 10-feet high with two feet of overhang.
The FWC recommended Jungle Island raise fences to at least 14 feet with four feet of overhang.
Levine was also given a written warning for not notifying the FWC of the incident. According to Pino, it was the Miami-Dade Police Department who notified the FWC.
``If you own captive wild life, the very first call you make is to the FWC if something happens,'' Pino said. ``We are the agency specialized in recapturing the animals, and we are the investigating agency to investigate the escape.''
Bhagavan Antle, the owner of the 500-pound tiger named Mahesh, was charged with one count of maintaining captive wildlife in an unsafe condition, resulting in threats to public safety.
Neither Levine nor Antle could be reached for comment Saturday. The charges for both men have a maximum penalty of $500, Pino said.
Mahesh, a male tiger, jumped over his fence to chase after Watson, a small, 8-year-old ape, after it, too, sneaked out of his cage.
No one was seriously injured during the Aug. 28 incident, but four people were treated for minor injuries and a fifth was treated for a panic attack.
The park's staff managed to capture the tiger without tranquilizers, and Watson was later found on a picnic table. The park also moved the male tiger to a different cage while changes are made to meet state requirements, Pino said.