Tiger Mauls Caretaker At Animal Sanctuary

Tuesday, December 4th 2007, 7:40 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A caretaker at Tippi Hedren's animal sanctuary was critically mauled by a Bengal tiger, an attack the actress blamed not on the animal -- but on breeders.

Chris Orr, 40, was bitten Monday in the neck at Shambala Preserve while cleaning the tiger's cage at the 80-acre wildlife habitat in Acton.

He was flown to a hospital in critical but stable condition, said Art Marrujo, a county Fire Department dispatch supervisor.

"This is a terrible shock to us," Hedren told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Hedren said she didn't know what may have set the 4-year-old tiger off. She said she rescued the animal in 2003 after state regulators shut down a facility that was illegally breeding tigers.

"We'll never know why these animals do these things," Hedren said. "It's not his fault. It's the fault of the breeders who breed these animals as pets."

Hedren, the mother of actress Melanie Griffith, said she was pushing a Congressional bill to ban the breeding of exotic cats.

Orr was cleaning an enclosure with the tiger's primary caretaker when the 450-pound animal jumped him, said Hedren's publicist, Harlan Boll.

"Chris was bitten in the neck, and he had some scratch marks," Harlan Boll said. "He's in stable condition, and we're waiting to see how he reacts to the antibiotics."

"Alexander was not playing; he jumped him," Boll said.

A warden of the California Department of Fish and Game was investigating, department spokesman Steve Matarano said.

Hedren, best known for her performances in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" and "Marnie," founded the preserve in the early 1970s and lives on the property, in the high desert about 40 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

The preserve is home to more than 60 endangered big cats, including lions, leopards and servals, most born in captivity and given up by circuses, zoos and private owners who could no longer care for them.