Petra has been living in the zoo since 2004. In the beginning of September, zoo workers made her to participate in an introduction training session with Bunga, a 5-year-old male tiger. Jackson Thompson, one of the managers of the zoo, explained:
Our goal was to have both cats on exhibit in their own yards; however, the exhibit requires a shared fence line. During Tuesday morning's training, the tigers came into contact with each other through the barrier. Following protocol our zookeeper staff did everything they could to separate them, but Petra's front left paw was severely injured.
The injury was so bad that the veterinarians had no choice but to amputate her leg. According to the zoo's spokesperson, Petra is recovering well.
But this accident didn't escape the anger and attention of many animal wellbeing groups and individuals. Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue (BCR), a sanctuary in Florida, wrote in an open letter:
The news article quoted Jackson Thompson as saying, 'the exhibit requires a shared fence line' and that's clearly inappropriate for big cats. They should never have a shared fence line that would allow them to lose an ear, a tail, or limb.
According to BCR's director, the employees at Dickerson zoo are directly responsible for Petra's tragic injury and the accident underlines their lack of knowledge of wild animal behaviour. She told The Dodo:
Zoos have to mix and match cats in order that they not be too inbred, which often means shipping cats across [the] country, for mating.That is a recipe for disaster because the resident cat has territory to defend and the newcomer has to assert their domination. The fact that every such pairing doesn't end in a death or substantial mauling is actually noteworthy.
Animal activists are convinced Petra shouldn't spend the rest of her life in a zoo, especially after this scandal. the BCR sanctuary has offered to welcome her and take care of her, as they fear for this 16-year-old creature:
I fear she will just disappear now, either through euthanasia, once the media has turned away their attention, or to some tiny, barren holding cell, or to some backyard collector.
On hopes that this moving, public letter and the pressure from activists convince the Dickerson zoo to release Petra into a sanctuary to finish her life peacefully and with as much dignity as possible, after the trauma she experienced in the zoo.