NEW YORK — After escaping from the circus, a white tiger alarmed picnickers and motorists Saturday on what for him apparently was a calm, half-mile stroll through an unfamiliar urban jungle.
The animal, named Apollo, was safely recaptured in the Queens section of the city — but not before the sight of him on the Jackie Robinson Parkway caused a multi-car accident. Four adults and one child suffered minor injuries.
When the tiger lay down on a nearby street, six police officers with guns drawn created a perimeter around it, Capt. John Durkin said. The tiger’s trainer arrived and coaxed it back into his cage.
“They did some type of signal, and the tiger jumped into the cage,” Durkin said. “The tiger was taken into custody without incident.”
The 7-year-old, 450-pound tiger is part of the Cole Bros. Circus that was performing in Forest Park.
The cat was being transferred from a small cage to a larger one when the two enclosures separated, creating an opening big enough for him to get out, police and parks officials said.
Apollo calmly prowled through a section of the park, walking past Mary Mason and other people at a church picnic.
“We were all in shock,” Mason said. “Here we are, out on a quiet Saturday afternoon picnic and all of a sudden, a tiger is walking past like he was on a quiet afternoon stroll.”
Durkin said police followed the animal for about a half-mile from the park to a residential street near the Jackie Robinson Parkway. The tiger had apparently strolled through some streets and stepped on to the parkway before settling in on the street where the police found him, police said.
The Florida-based circus was cited for creating an animal nuisance. Circus officials declined to comment on the incident.
It’s not the only time police have had to deal with a tiger in the city. Last October, police and animal control officers removed a nearly 600-pound tiger and a 5-foot-long alligator from a Manhattan apartment.
“Police have no special training on how to deal with tigers,” Durkin said. “Based on this tiger and the last tiger, we may have to incorporate something into our training.”
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