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Monday, October 1, 2012

That’s quite a splash! Daring zookeeper dives into swimming pool followed by 450lb tiger for thrilling show

By Emma Clark

..A brave zookeeper has taken a real leap of faith - into a swimming pool with a fearsome tiger.

Daring Jeff Harwell, 30, dived into the water closely followed by 450lb Bengal tiger Akasha to the astonishment of visitors.

The pair amazed crowds with their ‘romping and splashing’ in the 50ft pool at Out of Africa Wildlife Park at Camp Verde in Arizona, United States.


Jeff Harwell shows no fear as he dives into the swimming pool with eager Akasha preparing to follow him

Crowds hold their breath behind the safety of a wired fence as the zookeeper leaps through the air

The Tiger Splash show is a firm favourite at the wildlife theme park, exhibiting the natural and spontaneous behaviour of tigers as well as unique interaction with humans.

Throughout the thrilling display the zookeeper and his assistants use giant balloons and inflatables to playfully tease the tigers, encouraging them to jump into the water – seemingly unnerved about any potential danger.

Photographer Kathleen Reeder, 55, snapped the Tiger Splash Show from a safe spot behind a wired fence.

The 450lb fully-grown Bengal tiger begins his own leap, keen to follow his keeper

Akasha keeps his gaze on the feet of Mr Harwell who has to blindly trust the tiger as he enters the water

With all four paws off the ground, the giant playful cat can't wait to begin the game

She said: ‘I loved watching the tigers and their interactions with the staff because they have a very special bond.

‘The show features Bengal and Siberian tigers interacting in a predator-prey relationship of romping and splashing.

The weight and strength of the tiger can be seen as he jumps through the air while his playmate is completely submerged

Akasha tightly closes his eyes as he causes a massive splash in the pool to the delight of the spectators

‘It is unique, thrilling, and exciting.

‘The crowds “oooh” and “aaah” as the tigers play with their caretakers and various colourful toys.’

Mr Hawrwell has worked at the zoo - and with 12 year old Akasha - for five years putting on the unique half-hour show seven days a week.

VIDEO: Watch the promo from Out of Africa Wildlife Park...


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