Source AP ©

Tiger attacks caretaker in California animal sanctuary

A caretaker working in animal sanctuary owned by Tippi Hedren was attacked by a tiger while cleaning his cage.

The 40-year-old man was bitten in the neck Monday at Shambala Preserve, an 80-acre (32.4-hectare) wildlife habitat in Acton, in the high desert northeast of Los Angeles. He was flown to a hospital, said Art Marrujo, a county Fire Department dispatch supervisor.

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

Chris Orr was cleaning an enclosure when the 450-pound (204-kilogram) Bengal tiger named Alexander jumped him, said Hedren's publicist, Harlan Boll.

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

Orr was not the cat's primary caretaker, Boll said.

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

Hedren said she did not know what may have set off the 4-year-old tiger. She said she rescued Alexander 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 for a Congressional bill to ban the breeding of exotic cats.

Hedren starred in the Alfred Hitchcock horror classic "The Birds," about a town that comes under attack by thousands of birds. She founded the preserve in the early 1970s and lives on the property.

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 the animals.

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