It has been one year since deputies were forced to shoot and kill a tiger who bit a man in an unauthorized area at the Naples Zoo.
Eko was just one of nearly 300 Malayan tigers worldwide, a species the Naples Zoo has funded to save for more than 20 years.
Now, employees have healed, and there is a new Malayan tiger.
Sirens blared as a Collier County deputy’s patrol car sped toward the Naples Zoo last year. The deputy hoped the call about a man being attacked by a tiger was not real.
When he arrived at the zoo, he ordered an employee. to take him to the tiger. That is where the deputy found heard the screams of 26-year-old maintenance worker River Rosenquist, whose arm was locked in the jaws of the zoo’s 8-year-old tiger Eko.
MORE: FWC releases new details on Naples Zoo tiger attack
The only way to free Rosenquist was for the deputy to kill the tiger.
Mourning and shock followed. Flowers were left for Eko, and protest signs were left reading “This was not an attack” after the Collier County Sheriff’s Office said Rosenquist wasn’t supposed to be there. They said he stuck his hand in the cage, and teased and provoked the wild animal.
Time passed and Rosenquist never faced charges. Slowly, the zoo returned to normal.
Zoo workers, the community, and all who loved Eko tried to heal.
“I think we’re headed into a good place,” said Naples Zoo CEO Jack Mulvena.
People swarm the viewing glass and fence at Eko’s old enclosure now for a glimpse at the zoo’s new rare Malayan tiger.
He is a gorgeous and impressive sight, but he’s also elusive. Only the most patient, or lucky, zoo visitors get a look, much less a chance to see him up close.
Joy has returned to the Naples Zoo tiger exhibit in place of the horrifying scene fro December 29, 2021.
Eko’s memory and magnificent presence will never be forgotten.
The Naples Zoo sent the following statement regarding the one year mark of Eko’s death”
While the day is certainly heavy on the hearts of our staff, volunteers, members and our community, the Zoo will be a vibrant place tomorrow and guests will enjoy a beautiful day.
We are most focused on protecting our staff from reliving this extremely difficult memory because they have healed and have moved on.
We are fully supportive of the policy changes that FWC has made, but we believe they should be the ones to speak directly about those changes.
Again, we hope everyone will come visit with us tomorrow and enjoy and celebrate a beautiful day in our zoo and gardens.