Safari’s Sanctuary’s owner, Lori Ensign-Scroggins, told the media and the public that Safari’s intern Peter Getz made an unfortunate decision, for some reason unknown to her, to open the gate to the liger’s enclosure during feeding time on October 29, 2008. This sworn testimony to the USDA on November 18, 2008, by Safari’s park manager Kurt Beckelman, confirms, as Ivy Cook previously reported, that it was a joint decision between both himself and Pete to open the gate to feed part of the deer carcass to Rocky the liger.   Kurt stated: “WE decided to open the enclosure gate and throw the meat (approximately 1 hind quarter) inside.  WE did this and Rocky grabbed the meat in his mouth, when for some unknown reason Pete reached out and pushed Rocky’s head with his hand.”  [CAPS added by us for emphasis] (Read more in the copies of the affidavit at the end of this post, as well as a copy of the sheriff’s report of November 5, 2008, with Kurt Beckelman’s statement, in which Kurt wrote:  “Both Pete & myself opened the door to Rocky the liger to give him a piece [of deer meat].”)

The following statements will correct false information provided in Kurt’s testimony:

Ivy Cook, not Kurt, was the one who applied pressure to Pete’s neck to try to stop the bleeding, using her shirt that she had taken off for that purpose.Kurt did not call 911. One of the parents from the tour group did. Kurt was too much in pain and couldn’t see because when he sprayed mace on Rocky, he got the spray in his own face, too.Kurt says Pete did not have his mace on him that day. Obviously, neither did Kurt or he would have been able to use it immediately instead of asking the community service worker first for water to spray on Rocky and then to get the mace from the cart. The truth is that the mace and a fire extinguisher were always kept ON THE CART, outside of the big cats’ enclosures even when staff and volunteers entered their enclosures to feed and clean them. There was a lack of common sense in planning for potential attacks from these large animals.

Kurt Beckelman is still park manager at Safari’s and in charge of the big cats.  And staff and volunteers still feed the cats meat by hand and enter many of their cages during feeding time (see the many photos we’ve posted on this page proving that).  Even though lockouts are NOW in place for more than half of the big cats (according to Lori, who is not reliable, when it comes to the truth, as we’ve shown repeatedly on this page), even back then, the ones in place were often not used.  Much of that work on lockouts was done in the last year, AFTER the revocation of Lori’s USDA license and the closing of the park to the public–four YEARS after the liger attack.  You would think it would be the death of a human being that would have enough of an impetus to get lockouts built on all of the big cats’ cages immediately, even if it meant doing a special fundraiser for that purpose.  But that would have meant admitting to the public that the practices in caring for and feeding the big cats were dangerous–that on a regular basis, they entered their enclosures to feed and clean their cages, while the animal was in the same space as the humans.   And Lori Ensign-Scroggins was unwilling to tell the truth about that.  Instead, she waited to do much about this important safety issue until the park was closed to the public, resulting in a loss of revenue. Only then did she became concerned–when the money stopped coming in.

October 29, 2008, was not the first time the gate to Rocky’s enclosure was opened to feed him. It had been done many times before, despite a lockout for him built and in place. That was only the first time when someone was injured after doing so.

Kurt was not a volunteer at the park–he was paid staff (paid cash by Lori under the table). He started working at Safari’s in 2001–so by 2008, he had been there about 7 years and started working with the big cats within the first year working there.

The statement that Rocky was observed after the attack and he appeared fine to Lori and Kurt is false. He was very agitated and his behavior scared Ivy and Johnathan, the volunteer who helped her take care of the animals on their own for the next two weeks.

We have more than 50 other pages of information from which to share from the USDA’s response to our FOIA request for all information about the liger attack and other information pertinent to it. We are also expecting notification from the USDA’s Office of Administrative Law Judge about the release of 67 other pages of documentation related to the liger attack and subsequent investigation. As we find time, we will post more articles to provide additional factual information, in the public interest of knowing the truth, something that Safari’s management has kept from the public all these years.

Kurt Beckelman's sworn affidavit JPEG pg 1 of 2 to the USDA re liger attack, testimony given Nov 18, 2008Kurt Beckelman's sworn affidavit JPEG pg 2 of 2 to the USDA re liger attack, testimony given Nov 18, 2008Kurt Beckelman's statements to Wagoner Co. Sheriff on Nov 8, 2008, about liger attack Oct. 29, 2008