Berani, a year-old Sumatran tiger, passed a training test and was rewarded with a chunk of meat.
But the Zoo Miami zookeeper “broke protocol” and hand-fed the treat through the protective bars instead of putting it on a stick, said Ron Magill, the zoo’s spokesman.
The result: The 20-year-old zookeeper lost the tip of her left index finger.
“This was not a malicious bite at all,” Magill said. “That cat didn’t show any aggression. He simply was getting his reward.”
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Magill said there were three zookeepers working with Berani on “target training” — getting from one point to another — in the holding area away from public view at about 2 p.m. Tuesday.
The zookeeper, who has been there for two years, put the meat through the bars. When Berani clamped down, the zookeeper screamed, Magill said.
“I don’t know why this happened,” he said. “Her finger never should have been there.”
The young woman was taken to Jackson South for treatment.
Magill said the accident should serve as a wake-up call for everyone who works with animals.
“All it takes is one split-second for something like this to happen,” he said.