Boy, 3, suffers grievious injuries after tiger lashes out at Montekristo zoo

Tiger injures 3-year-old child at Montekristo zoo

A three-year-old boy was grievously injured when a tiger on a leash at the Montekristo Zoo was said to have lashed out at the child.

The incident occurred today Saturday at 4:30pm at the Montekristo Estate's zoo, which is itself an unlicensed zoo that has however been allowed to operate.

Qormi police were on site, and are still carrying out interviews with witnesses and the two handlers who were monitoring the tiger.

Police said the boy was with a 56-year-old man from Zabbar at the time of the incident.

Jean Paul Sammut, a director at Montekristo Estate, which is owned by Polidano Bros, said the boy had been injured by the tiger's claws "while the animal was playing with it."

"We express their solidarity with the family. From preliminary investigations it transpires that the tiger was being walked by two handlers, and was lying on the floor at the point of incident. At one point the boy moved towards the tiger, and the tiger wrapped her paws around the boy consequently hitting the boy with its nail [sic] in the face. At no point did the tiger bite the boy or any of the sort took place."

An eyewitness, Ritienne Spiteri, was there with a friend and eight children when the incident occurred. "The kids were playing on the carousel while most parents were sitting at the café opposite. The two tiger handlers came close to the café where two women were taking photos of the animal. The kids rushed to view the tiger... one child crossed over a passageway whereupon the tiger grabbed the child and appeared to have locked him in a hug. The handler started hitting the tiger until the animal released the boy."

Spiteri said that there was blood on the ground, and cleaners were called in to clean up the scene.

The boy was hospitalised, where he was certified to be suffering from grievious injuries but was not in danger of dying.