New tiger at Naples Zoo: What to know about 'One,' the replacement for Eko
There's a new cat in town.
He shot 8-year-old Eko to free a third-party cleaning service worker who made it past barriers to Eko's cage, where he stuck his arm through a fenced enclosure the night of Dec. 29. The tiger grabbed his arm and wouldn't let go. When a deputy arrived, he shot Eko.
Eko — also a Malayan tiger — at the time was the zoo's only tiger.
"One is already stealing the hearts of keepers," said Lee Ann Rottman, Naples Zoo director of animal programs. "We hope he will inspire our visitors and community to join us in supporting our tiger conservation efforts in the wild.”
The tiger will now live in the same enclosure that housed Eko at the Naples Zoo as a bachelor for the Species Survival Plan. Naples Zoo will give him an official name during a donor-supported auction at the 2022 Zoo Gala on Nov. 17.
In the December tiger attack, the worker — River Rosenquist, who was 29 at the time and a member of the after-hours cleaning crew — suffered serious injuries and was not charged criminally in the death of Eko.
A necropsy report said Eko died quickly from significant internal bleeding.
Just a few months later, a second tiger attack left a Southwest Florida man injured.
Ignacio Meabe Martinez, 48, of Lehigh Acres suffered severe injuries to both arms when he was bitten by two tigers at Wooten's Everglades Airboat Tours in Ochopee on March 22, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigation found.
The agency found that the maintenance worker who was bitten ignored a caretaker's instructions to stay away from the animals' enclosure.
Even so, tThe Conservation Commission in April cleared the Collier County airboat company of wrongdoing.
Wooten's, a long-standing tourism attraction, offers airboat tours, swamp buggy rides and alligator shows, in addition to an animal sanctuary that has tigers, lions, otters, and more than 100 alligators.
Malayan tigers are critically endangered, with a breeding population below 200 tigers in the wild and less than 50 tigers in zoos. Their biggest conservation threats are habitat loss and poaching.
One way to help, the zoo said, is to contribute to the Eko Tiger Conservation Fund established after his death. The fund so far has raised more than $50,000 for tiger conservation.
"Naples Zoo has supported tiger conservation efforts for years and will continue to raise funds in Eko’s honor," a Naples Zoo news release said Wednesday.
"100% of the funds received will go to helping save tigers in Malaysia through the efforts of the Wildlife Conservation Society."
Anyone can donate at www.napleszoo.org/donate with the word TIGER in the comment section or send a check payable to “Naples Zoo” mailed to Naples Zoo, Eko Tiger, 1590 Goodlette Road N, Naples FL 34102-5260.
Dave Osborn is the regional features editor of the Naples Daily News and News-Press. Follow him on Instagram @lacrossewriter and on Twitter @NDN_dosborn.