NEW YORK – A tiger and an alligator found in a Manhattan apartment were sent to wildlife sanctuaries in Ohio and Indiana on Sunday while their owner recovered from bite wounds inflicted by the more than 400-pound cat.
Police said Antoine Yates, 31, would face reckless endangerment charges after he gets out of a hospital in Philadelphia, where he fled. He was listed in good condition.
Yates said the tiger grabbed him and "tore open my whole leg down to the bone." Yates told Philadelphia TV station KYW in a phone interview from his hospital bed that he was "trying to create a Garden of Eden, something that this world lacks."
A team of animal control officers, police and Bronx Zoo (search) workers removed the animals from Yates' fifth-floor apartment in a Harlem housing project on Saturday.
Wes Artope, director of the city's animal shelters, said the tiger, an orange and white Siberian-Bengal mix (search), had been kept in the apartment since he was a 6-week-old cub. The 20-month-old tiger now weighs at least 425 pounds, Artope said.
"He's huge," Artope said.
The tiger and the 5-foot-long alligator (search), both in good condition, were taken first to a local shelter, then to a Long Island animal sanctuary and then to Ohio, Artope said.
"Clearly this tiger should not have been in any place in New York City outside of a zoo," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters Sunday.
The tiger went to Noah's Lost Ark in Berlin Center, Ohio, a licensed preserve for exotic animals. The facility isn't equipped for reptiles, director Ellen Whitehouse said Sunday, so the alligator went on to an Indiana sanctuary.
The "terrified" tiger was roaring and snarling as he came out of a tranquilizer haze in what Whitehouse believed was his first time in a cage, she said.
"He just really needs time to be left alone," Whitehouse said. The tiger will be examined by a veterinarian Monday and will stay in his own outdoor enclosure for at least a month before there are any attempts to introduce him to the sanctuary's other 45 big cats.
Yates was taken into custody Saturday night at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, where he was being treated for lacerations to his leg, police said.
Authorities believe he went to Philadelphia after checking out of a New York hospital on Friday with bites to his arm and leg.
Officers first responded to a call on Wednesday that Yates had been bitten by a dog, but police said they later received two anonymous calls saying Yates had actually been bitten by a large wild animal.
Residents at his apartment building told responding officers that they had seen the tiger.
Authorities used a camera to monitor the animals in the apartment before shooting them with tranquilizer darts.
It will take the cat some time to adjust to seeing trees and birds, Whitehouse said, adding, "I'd love to see what the inside of the house looked like."