THE Australia Zoo tiger which attacked his handler may have mistaken him for one of his favourite toys because he was not wearing his usual khaki clothing.
Dave Styles, who has worked with the six-year-old tiger since he was a cub, was wearing a blue poncho-like top with bags over his hands when he was dragged into the pool and bitten on the neck on Tuesday afternoon.
According to News Corp, the unusual attire may have been part of a bizarre experiment to excited the 114kg Sumatran-Bengal tiger, Charlie, to obtain footage for a BBC documentary.
Mr Styles had a GoPro camera strapped to his head, reportedly to familiarise the big cat with the device, which would be used as part of a six-month BBC filming project at the zoo.
Zoo director Wes Mannion yesterday confirmed the bag-like suit was used as an "enrichment" tool during tiger playtime.
Australia Zoo has said it will launch its own investigation into the attack, as well as co-operate with one being carried out by state authorities.
The zoo says the tiger was not acting maliciously but had mistaken Mr Styles for a toy.
Mr Mannion would not say whether it was the first time the different outfit had been used.
Another fun aspect of working with tigers is that the handlers get to play with toys!
Playing with toys for the tigers is very important for stimulation and enrichment, as well as the relationship between the handlers and tigers.
Various toys are used to encourage the tigers to jump, climb and chase.
This is the perfect opportunity to showcase some of the natural behaviours that tigers would display in the wild. This involves the handlers running around with toys as the tigers chase them down.
But the key to getting their attention is to have a toy that moves easily.
One of the most popular, and easy to make, is a rubbish bag tied on the end of a stick. Shake it and it makes noise, it flows easily on the ground or in the air- and watch as they leap into the air at full flight, quite impressive!
Toy sessions are performed daily with the handlers and tigers, and are hugely beneficial to the relationship between the two.
The tigers need to have respect for the handlers, as well as the handlers having respect for the tigers, to keep a safe environment around us.
Usually, our tigers like to combine toys with the water! Splashing around chasing a toy, or tackling each other, they have an absolute ball. We don't know who has more fun, the tigers or the handlers!
Australia Zoo hits back at PETA over tiger attack claims
CONTROVERSIAL animal rights organisation PETA claims Australia Zoo was not "following standard industry practice" when one of its trainers was attacked by a tiger.
Experienced handler Dave Styles was bitten on the neck and shoulder during a show on Tuesday afternoon.
He was airlifted to Royal Brisbane Hospital in a serious but stable condition.
On Wednesday, a PETA spokeswoman said the injuries could have been prevented if Australia Zoo had used protective barriers.
"If his employer had followed standard industry practice and required that protective barriers always be kept between potentially dangerous animals and humans, effectively banning performances with animals, the trainer would never have been attacked," the statement read.
"No amount of training or experience can stop a tiger from acting like the wild animal they are.
"And captivity, combined with a lack of environmental enrichment, can cause psychological distress, which can manifest or exacerbate aggression.
"The fault in this incident lies squarely with Australia Zoo who should be penalised for allowing employees to risk their lives by getting into an enclosure with wild animals."
But Australia Zoo director Wes Mannion dismissed PETA's comments, saying "they have a completely separate agenda".
"They want all zoos to be closed down," Mr Mannion said.
"Obviously they've never been to Australia Zoo to see the quality and how we love our animals and how we look after them."
Australia Zoo said it would conduct its own investigation and also cooperate with workplace health and safety authorities.
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