Pauls Valley Democrat
A Wynnewood area animal park worker appears to be good spirits Monday even after one of her arms was mauled by a tiger this past weekend.
That according to Joe Schreibvogel of the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park near Wynnewood.
During a media conference early Monday evening at the park Schreibvogel released a statement by the hurt worker, 27-year-old Kelci Saffery, before he answered questions from reporters gathered near the park’s main entrance.
Saffery’s first comment in a hand written note was related to the accident on Saturday being her fault.
“I broke protocol and stuck my hand in a cat cage instead of using the stick provided,” Saffery stated.
“The cat let go and pushed my arm back through the cage. This tiger was not aggressive towards me.
“I hope for a healthy recovery so I can return to work every day with my tigers.”
Schreibvogel, who described himself as the park’s entertainment director and a medic, offered his comments after returning from a visit with Saffery at the Oklahoma City hospital where she is being treated.
He stresses the woman has a long recovery time ahead of her, likely two years worth of surgeries, but her injured left arm has been saved.
“During our conversation at the hospital she was in good spirits, laughing and joking,” Schreibvogel said, adding Saffery is expected to remain in the hospital for at least 10 more days.
A brief description of the incident shows Saffery was injured Saturday morning when the tiger used its claws to grab her gloved hand before pulling her arm further into the cage.
Other staff members were quickly at the scene as the woman was first brought to Pauls Valley before being airlifted to OU Medical Center.
“At no time did the tiger growl at Kelci or act aggressively,” he said, adding the animal is not named but only known as tiger number seven since the park works to find new homes for the large animals at other zoos.
“Kelcie believes the tiger thought her hand was a toy.”
The best news of all appears to be with the condition of the woman’s hurt hand, even though doctors did have to remove a small tip of the ring finger.
“All of her fingers are moving,” Schreibvogel said. “It’s a miracle in my eyes.”
As for the local response to the incident, Schreibvogel said it’s been very supportive from the Wynnewood area.
“Our community is 100 percent behind us because we’ve never had an injury here or an animal escape.”
He added there about 150 large cats being cared for at the park.