Carole Baskin speaks to WINK News about Wooten’s tiger attack, protecting big cats

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Carole Baskin first pitch
Carole Baskin first pitch Credit: WINK News

After a tiger bit an employee at Wooten’s in Collier County last month, no violation was found. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found that the Wooten’s employee, Ignacio Martinez, was apparently drunk and unauthorized to be in the tiger’s enclosure at the time of the biting. Martinez told investigators that he just wanted to pet the tiger.

Following that tiger attack, WINK News spoke with Carole Baskin, one of the stars of the Netflix series “Tiger King.” On Friday, Baskin was in Southwest Florida to throw out the first pitch at the Mighty Mussels game. We asked her about partnering with the Might Mussels and her thoughts on SWFL’s latest tiger attack.

It’s Big Cat Rescue fundraiser night at the Mighty Mussels game. Players wore special tiger-themed uniforms that Carole Baskin had a hand in designing.

“The Mighty Mussels have turned this into a fundraiser for Big Cat Rescue because we’ve been closed since COVID. So, it’s been really helpful that they are doing an auction of all of the players that are wearing this amazing jersey. They’re going to sign the jerseys, and they’re going to auction them off for Big Cat Rescue,” said Baskin.

And, of course, lots of fans showed up to the game, many donning Tiger King-themed outfits. Katie Brunco said there was no way she was going to miss this. “My husband and I were immediately like, ‘oh, we’re going to this one,'” said Brunco.

The massive turnout is precisely what Carole Baskin hoped for, as it helped to spread her message of protecting and saving big cats. “The biggest thing people can do to protect tigers is going to and contact their member of congress to end cub handling and to phase out private ownership. And we have to do that in order to save the tiger in the wild or we’re going to lose the tiger in the next five years,” Baskin said.

Last month, WINK News also spoke to Baskin about the tiger biting incident at Wooten’s.

FWC says Martinez was apparently drunk went the attack happened. And that he was told to stay away from the tiger suffer zone fence area. The report by FWC indicates that Martinez felt he had the right to be there, so he ended up trying to pet the tigers. That ended in him being violently attacked.

FWC: No violations by Wooten’s during tiger bite, worker smelled of alcohol

“I think it’s because of social media. People see these people playing with big cats and acting like they have a relationship with big cats. And they want to do that too, and they don’t realize that 300-pound cat somebody was frolicking with was probably only a year or two old. It wasn’t an adult yet. And so, when they try to have their fantasy experience, they end up being mauled or killed,” said Baskin.

You may have heard Carole mention that the tiger-themed jerseys worn by the players at Friday’s game will be auctioned off. Those proceeds will go to Big Cat Rescue.

Carole Baskin told WINK News she practiced for about a week before throwing out the first pitch.

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