Tigers wander through unlocked door at Florida Zoo

Two tigers at the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens wandered into a part of the tiger holding area where they were not supposed to be.

It happened Feb. 24, two days before a rhino injured a zookeeper with his horn.

Thousands of people watched tiger cubs Rocky and Jagger on a live webcam in 2017.

But they’re not kittens anymore.

The tiger brothers wandered into an area of the tiger barn where tigers have never been before because a zookeeper left at least one door unlocked, according to Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens Executive Director Tony Vecchio.

Vecchio said the zookeeper forgot to lock the tigers into their behind-the-scenes enclosures while they were chewing on bones.

He said the zookeeper forgot to lock their enclosures before walking through glass double-doors that led to the entrance of the barn.

Once the tigers wandered out, those glass doors were the only barriers between the tigers and the zookeeper.

"The keeper was never in the same space with the cats, but that potential was there," Vecchio said.

He said the curator was able to get the tigers back where they were supposed to be using a pole, and did not have to use tranquilizer darts.

Vecchio did not want to say whether the zookeeper was disciplined, but said protocols were broken. 
He said the zoo is already in the process of switching to a two-lock, two-person system in all the big cat enclosures.

“It’s challenging and it will be expensive, but it’s just – you can’t say no to it. It does make things safer. And that is to add extra locks on the door, that each lock has a different key,” said Vecchio.

Both Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirm the zoo made them aware of the incident.

Vecchio said neither agency chose to investigate.

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