Name of unauthorized employee bitten by tiger at Florida animal sanctuary released

Officials say the tiger was uninjured
Posted at 5:39 PM, Mar 24, 2022

OCHOPEE, Fla. — One day after an employee was bitten by a tiger at Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours, Collier County Sheriff's Office identified the employee as Ignacio Meabe Martinez, 48, from Lehigh Acres.

The agency leading the investigation, Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC), agrees with Wooten's blog post, saying Martinez was not authorized to be in the tiger's enclosure.

On Wednesday, customers continued to roll through Wooten's Everglades Airboats front gates after several agencies, including the Greater Naples Fire Rescue District, responded to the call for service late Tuesday

"Well, first of all, I believe the crews probably looked at each other and said did he say tiger?" said Chief Nolan Sapp.

Greater Naples Fire Rescue District, Chief Nolan Sapp, told me despite the odd call for service, his crews knew they needed to stop the bleeding, care for the wounds, and keep the patient from going into shock.

"Whether it's a tiger or a dog or an alligator, it's still an animal bite. And other than the means in which it was conducted, it's all still similar to each other," said Sapp.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office report said Martinez reached through the fence to pet the tiger while its caretaker in an outer enclosure was feeding the animal.

In a blog post–Wooten's Airboats said the employee was not authorized to enter the tiger’s enclosure.

The FWC is talking about a topic that I discovered.

On theirwebsite, under their rules and regulations, for owning animals like tigers, it says:

The FWC Captive Wildlife Office is currently reviewing rules related to the following:

  • adding a prohibition on unauthorized persons breaching safety barriers (68a-6.009, f.a.c.)

On Wednesday, FWC's Public Information Coordinator Shannon Knowles said there weren't any current criminal penalties in place if someone breaches the barriers.

"Currently, there are no criminal penalties in Florida law regarding unauthorized individuals breaching safety barriers of big cat enclosures. The FWC is evaluating future modifications to that rule," she said.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office said the tiger was not injured in their report.

Colton Chavez at WFTX first reported this story.