( 4UMF NEWS ) Man Plays Tag With Tiger:
This daring park worker sure knows how to make a splash.
Jeff Harwell fearlessly dived into a swimming pool followed by a massive Bengal tiger for an impressive “Tiger Splash” event in late September at the Out of Africa Wildlife Park.
The 30-year-old stuns visitors daily as he plays with Bengal and Siberian tigers, some weighing over 400 lbs., in a 50 ft. pool at the Camp Verde, Ariz., park.
“The whole thing is intense to watch, but it’s extremely safe,” photographer Kathleen Reeder told the Daily News of the images she shot of Harwell and the 450 lb. tiger named Akasha. “There’s so much love and bonding between the tigers and the staff.”
The dive is only one of the brave feats Harwell pulls off during the “Tiger Splash” show – one of the park’s most popular events.
The show is designed to wow audiences with displays of the tigers’ innate behavior.
“They’re prompting their predator-prey instincts,” Reeder explained. “It’s very natural reactions.”
Harwell and his colleagues use inflatable toys and balloons to playfully provoke the fierce felines into leaping in the pool as Dean Harrison, co-owner of the wildlife park, narrates. Reeder, who captures stunning stills of the shows from behind a wire fence, started photographing the events in 2009.
“I just couldn’t even believe that someone was doing this,” Reeder said. “I’ve been photographing it ever since.”