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Bengal tiger attacks ex-Las Vegas illusionist, sanctuary founder

Updated April 26, 2019 - 12:39 am

A former Las Vegas Strip entertainer was injured Monday when he was bitten by a Bengal tiger near Kingman, Arizona.

Jonathan Kraft, who performed on the Las Vegas Strip as an illusionist more than 30 years ago and who founded Keepers of the Wild, suffered multiple injuries when trying to protect Bowie, a Bengal tiger, during a flash-flood warning about 140 miles southeast of Las Vegas.

Keepers of the Wild is a nature park in Valentine, Arizona, founded by Kraft and dedicated to the protection of abused, neglected, abandoned and retired captive wildlife, according to a news release posted on its Facebook page.

Kraft was concerned for the big cat’s safety and took “unilateral action” to move Bowie and several other large cats into an area that would be safe during a heavy thunderstorm and until the flash-flood warning subsided.

“Jonathan made the decision to shift Bowie’s gates to allow him access to his den box area,” according to the news release. “During the process, the usually docile behaving Bowie exhibited unusual conduct by suddenly pushing the gates prior to Jonathan being able to secure the safety clips. Animal Care staff rushed to assist Jonathan and remove him from the tiger’s grip. Although Bowie lacks front claws, he took advantage of his strong teeth to hold onto Jonathan.”

Medical crews took Kraft to Kingman Regional Medical Center where he was treated for multiple wounds and two broken bones. He was brought to Las Vegas for further treatment.

The Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating, said spokesman Trevor Laky, declining further comment because of the open investigation.

Eleven-year-old Bowie, who arrived at Keepers of the Wild in September 2018, had been declawed as a young cub and will not be euthanized, the news release said.

“My accident with Bowie was my fault,” Kraft said. “I was concerned for his welfare and did not stay focused on him. It only takes a fraction of a second for a captive wild animal to revert to their instinctual behavior. These situations occur when there is human error.”

Keepers of the Wild is conducting an internal investigation.

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