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A 500-pound Bengal tiger named Mahesh escaped from his pen at the Jungle Island attraction on MacArthur Causeway just before noon Saturday, causing frantic park-goers to run for their lives as trainers and employees deployed in an effort to secure the roaming animal.
Mahesh was coaxed into his traveling pen by trainers in about an hour, according to the AP, and without the use of tranquilizers.
Employees were unable to say exactly how the three-year-old tiger sprang over the 14-foot fence surrounding his enclosure, but a park veterinarian confirmed an AP report that a gibbon named Watson got free of his own habitat enclosure, provoking or exciting Mahesh into his own escape.
Several minor injuries were sustained during the incident, now under investigation by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission. Miami Fire Rescue responded immediately, treating a woman who fell on top of her baby in the panic, another woman for symptoms of an anxiety attack, and a pregnant woman who experienced stomach pains after running.
One man told of being held inside a barn for an hour and a half during the commotion, and a woman told the AP the tiger followed her until she hid in a bathroom.
"People were running for their lives," Larry Rhodes told the Miami Herald.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing the Bengal as near to the entrance of Jungle Island as its flamingo pond. Jungle Island says the public was whisked to secured buildings for safety within two minutes of Mahesh's escape.
"At no point were any of the animals not being closely monitored by Jungle Island animal trainers," read the statement. "Seasoned trainers were in control of the situation at all times.
"All of our tigers have been raised by human beings and maintain consistent interaction with people, which inherently allows them to see us as non-threatening. To that end, no guests were injured by the tiger. Any and all guests who expressed concern were seen by City of Miami Fire Rescue."
The attraction formerly known as Parrot Jungle has several Bengal tigers, which its website says can reach 6-9 feet in length and weigh 400 to 660 pounds. They offered refunds to traumatized park guests -- and should probably have offered clean pants as well.