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Man loses finger, zoo visiting rights
Updated: 2004-05-18 10:05

A New Mexico man has been banned from the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque after losing a finger to a jaguar's bite and then lying about it.

Groundskeeper Lyn Ewell saw the man, a frequent visitor to the zoo, running to the men's room last Tuesday with one hand in his pocket, a dark stain on his pants, reports KOAT-TV of Albuquerque.

Ewell followed the man and asked him if he was OK, but he turned away and ran out of the zoo, director Ray Darnell said.

The next day, a human finger was found at the big cats' area, looking "pretty dried up," according to mammal curator Rick Janser.

"It looks like a Halloween prop," Janser said.

The apparent bleeder was well known to zoo staff, so they called him up.

"Are you missing any fingers?" he was asked.

"Oh no, there's nothing wrong with me," he said, according to Darnell. "You have the wrong guy."

The man had been coming by to talk to Manchas the jaguar who once bit off a worker's finger nearly every day for the past couple of years. But he didn't show up Wednesday or Thursday.

So zoo managers took the finger to the Albuquerque Police Department, who matched it to the prime suspect's fingerprints.

Officers went to his house to confront him with the evidence and confirmed that he indeed had only nine fingers. It wasn't clear which hand had been reduced.

The Rio Grande Zoo declined to press charges, but did ask him never to come back.

Darnell figured the involuntary amputee stuck his hand into the jaguar's cage while no one else was watching. He hoped the incident would remind people to be more careful around the big cats.

"They're not your friends, they're not your pets," he told the TV station. "They're wild animals."

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