Man who climbed fence to touch tiger at Denver Zoo is charged

A man from Tennessee will face criminal trespassing charges over his irresponsible actions on March 18 at “The Edge” tiger exhibit of the Denver Zoo.

Matthew Swearington, 34, stated on Facebook he actually managed to pet a tiger, according to the 7 News Denver. But that isn’t quite true.

The Denver Police wrote on Facebook that he “reportedly climbed the exhibit fence, touched a lion and then jumped back down.” That’s not entirely true, either, as reported by FOX 31 Denver.

What Swearington actually did, according to the Denver Zoo, was climb a public barrier fence and then jump up to touch a sleeping tiger in the overhead catwalk. He touched the tiger through fencing or metal flooring.

“The individual never accessed the exhibit and neither he, nor the tiger, were harmed,” the Denver Zoo Facebook page said.

As reported in the Denver Post, the incident occurred the day after the zoo opened The Edge, a $2.2 million exhibit that spans an 18,200-square-foot area, giving the tigers about twice as much room as the previous enclosure.

It features a catwalk where tigers can be viewed by visitors from below, but it is meant to allow tigers to be in the higher positions that they favor.

RELATED: Woman jumps fence of tiger enclosure at zoo to retrieve hat; sparks fly

“Clearly identifiable barriers, including signage and fencing, are in place throughout the zoo and our safety officers are onsite 24 hours a day,” the Denver Zoo wrote on Facebook.

“In light of this incident, Denver Zoo is currently evaluating this area to determine if anything additional needs to be done to discourage this illegal behavior from happening again.”

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