Eko the tiger had been at the zoo for two years
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office said that the man, a cleaner, entered an unauthorised area near a tiger enclosure at Naples Zoo in the southwest of the state.
Authorities believe the man was either trying to pet or feed the animal, neither of which are allowed.
The Malayan tiger, named Eko, grabbed the man by his arm and dragged him into the enclosure.
In order to save the man, deputies said they were forced to shoot the animal, who then retreated before dying.
The first officer on the scene had tried to get the tiger to release his arm by kicking the enclosure fencing, but this was unsuccessful.
The man, who is in his twenties, was seriously injured. He was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital and is considered a trauma alert.
In a statement, zoo management said the man was employed by a third-party cleaning company, hired to clean the gift shop and restrooms – not the animal enclosures.
Crime scene tape surrounds the scene at the zoo as deputies and officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigate the incident.
Eight-year-old Eko had first come to the zoo in December 2019 from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. He had featured on the zoo’s Twitter feed just the day before the incident.
A further statement reads: “Naples Zoo will be closed today, December 30th. The decision to close today was made to allow officials to complete their investigation late into the evening. This decision was also made to allow the zoo to begin its own internal investigation and to allow our staff to process what has occured and to begin the painful healing process.”
It continues: “A grief counselor will be available for staff beginning today. We will reopen at 9am tomorrow and we thank our community for their understanding and for the messages and words of encouragement and support that have been flowing into us.”