See tigers up-close at Out of Africa Wildlife Park - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

See tigers up-close at Out of Africa Wildlife Park

Posted: Updated:
  • Special ReportsMore>>

  • Panhandling: why there is an increase in panhandlers

    Panhandling: why there is an increase in panhandlers

    Have you noticed there seems to be more panhandlers on city streets? It's a common site just off freeway exit ramps, waiting to collect money from kindhearted drivers.For some of the men and women who seemingly have fallen on hard times, they're able to rake in big bucks in an hour or two.
    Have you noticed there seems to be more panhandlers on city streets? It's a common site just off freeway exit ramps, waiting to collect money from kindhearted drivers.For some of the men and women who seemingly have fallen on hard times, they're able to rake in big bucks in an hour or two.
  • Some Arivaca residents upset over Border Patrol checkpoint

    Some Arivaca residents upset over Border Patrol checkpoint

    A battle is brewing in one Arizona Border Town over what some residents say is taking over their way of life. They're not talking about migrants crossing the border; their fight is with Border Patrol.
    A battle is brewing in one Arizona Border Town over what some residents say is taking over their way of life. They're not talking about migrants crossing the border; their fight is with Border Patrol.
  • Family turns to a psychic to help solve son's murder

    Family turns to a psychic to help solve son's murder

    A family continues to search for answers in the death of their son.Kevin Ore was found shot to death in North Phoenix, just months after he survived cancer.Now his family is asking the public for information to end this investigation and get a killer off the street.
    A family continues to search for answers in the death of their son.Kevin Ore was found shot to death in North Phoenix, just months after he survived cancer.Now his family is asking the public for information to end this investigation and get a killer off the street.
CAMP VERDE, Ariz. -

There are plenty of ways to close to wildlife. You can take a hike through the wilderness, you can visit a zoo. But for one zoo north of the valley, some might argue that they're getting extremely close to wildlife -- because they swim with full grown tigers.

We went up to the Out of Africa Wildlife Park near Camp Verde. For good reason, they keep the general public away from the tigers, but we wanted to get as close as we could.

We mounted a small camera onto one of the men who plays with the tigers -- and as you can see, it gave us a unique look at what it is like to have a tiger at your back.

With an animal like this... there's no room for error.

The man in the water is Jeff Harwell, one member of a team that works and plays with these tigers every day.

"Always had a calling. Always loved the cats. I didn't think that working hands on with the cats was a realistic dream. But here I am," says Harwell, Out of Africa Wildlife Park.

Here, "hands on" is bit of an understatement. This show is always a crowd pleaser.

"It was awesome. I like how she leaped up in the air," says audience member Jack Martinez.

"It is pretty amazing. Even just having a dog. Playing with a dog you get a little nip here and there and to think of a couple hundred pound animal like that it is kind of impressive," says Matt Martinez.

Getting to this point where the tiger knows you and likes you -- takes time.

"I call them and they come running. They know I don't have food, they run all the way up to me and they just kind of rub against me, you can see it in their facial expressions."

When we were at Tiger Splash this week, Chalet, a 6-year-old, 370 pound, Bengal-Siberian tiger, wasn't afraid to get wet.

"The tiger got really close to him at some points. It was really interesting to see," says audience member Ayla Campisa.

Jeff has been working these tigers for about six years. The animals know him. But keep in mind these are wild animals. Things don't always go according to plan. And he's got the scars to prove it.

"I don't like to show them off because each one of these is from a time that I have messed up. We are not really proud of our scars."

A mess up usually means someone got in the tiger's way. The whole idea behind this is to keep the tiger chasing the toy, not the person.

We caught with Harwell right after the show. He admits he's not always comfortable out there.

"It's always fun despite the fear, and sometimes scary things are just fun, whether it be a roller coaster or it's just a big tiger."

"Mammals like Chalet have a play instinct, they are just hard wired to play, they are just having fun. In real life we let them practice every instinct except the kill one."

The Out of Africa Wildlife Park isn't your typical zoo.

You can closer to the animals than you might expect, even feed a giraffe.

You can feed the tigers too, but that's done through a fence and at a safe distance. Only the pros are allowed to get this close.

By the way, tigers are never forced to participate in the show. They have mood swings too, and if they don't want to play, the handlers can tell.

Powered by WorldNow

KSAZ-TV & KUTP
511 W. Adams St.
Phoenix, AZ 85003

Phone: (602) 257-1234
Fax: (602) 262-0177

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices