The performing six-year-old big cat called Zena keeled over sparking massive concern for her safety and that of spectators by her brother and sister handlers Artur and Karina Bagdasarov.
With a large crowd in the Russian circus in Magnitogorsk, Mr Bagdasarov said he feared a bloodbath from the other tigers attacking the fallen animal.
He has defended his actions caught on video of pulling the fallen tigress by the tail away from the edge of the ring, and emptying buckets of water on the Siberian big cats while he and Ms Bagdasarov cracked long sticks used as whups to keep the other six performing tigers from coming close.
Amid an online outcry with the handlers branded âsadistsâ, he said there was a risk of a giant cat fight leading to carnage in the circus.
Amur or Siberian tigers are the worldâs largest big cats native to the far east of Russia.
The famous Russian troupe which travel around the ex-USSR denied they had used a stun gun on the tigress – as some online comments claimed – insisting the animal had suddenly collapsed in convulsions for unknown reasons, and in doing so sparked an emergency.
Ms Bagdasarov said: âArtur did his best to bring Zena back to senses and he did all the right things – he touched her reflexive zones, he poured water on her.
âThe main thing was to stop other animals from attacking. For them a weak animal is a target, it is an order to kill.
Bagdasarov tiger circus show
If we had not stopped them, it would have ended with a bloody fight. And nobody knows who would have been alive after that
âIf we had not stopped them, it would have ended with a bloody fight. And nobody knows who would have been alive after that.â
The video shows how the tigress gradually came round after what may have been an âepileptic fitâ.
Mr Bagdasarov said he had no option but to pull her by the tail.
He said: âI had to drag the animal away from the wire fence, she was about to fall between the stage and the wire.
The tiger is splashed with water as it collapses
âI dragged her to a safe place where there were no other tigers around.
âAny other tiger could have attacked her when she was so weak.
âKarina was controlling six animals so they did not do any harm to the tigress.
âSo the tigress was away from spectators and away from other tigers.
âWhy the tail? What else could I drag her by?
âShe has claws on her paws. She is not a soft cat.
It was feared a bloodbath from the other tigers attacking the fallen animal
âI could not lift the whole tiger. When I watched this video, I realised that I am a healthy man, she weighs 200 kg.
âI was only shocked that I managed to drag herâŚ What if I had taken her away from the stage?
âShe would have recovered there and what would I do next?
âAs soon as she recovered she became a normal tiger, with the same claws and teeth.
âIf I had dragged her to the cage, other tigers would have run inside the cage too, and she could have been torn to pieces.â
Amur or Siberian tigers are the worldâs largest big cats native to the far east of Russia
He added: âIt was an emergency situation for all of us. It was a shock.
âWe do not have many people, we have just two behind the wire fenceâŚ
âWe usually work with a water cannon. It is needed to quickly bring the animal back to senses.â
He was shouting for aides to bring water.
He said: âWe had to run and bring buckets.
âI ran around asking to switch off the sound.
âAs soon as it became quiet and water was brought, she woke up.
âThe main thing that everything was done to help her recover.
âWe donât know yet what happened to her.â
Spectators clapped as it stood up and soon walked from the ring.
A Siberian Tiger in the wild
But watchers also said there had been cruel laughter from onlookers.
Larissa, who took her two children to the circus said: âWhen the tiger was convulsing, spectators laughed.
âWhen the animal defecated, it became clear it was an attack of an illness.
âI have seen the same thing with a dog. Both animal trainers behaved normally, the sister was watching the other animals.
âThe brother controlled everything and helped the tigress.
âThere was no stun gun. Artur beat his whip at the floor to calm down other animals.
âIt was clear that Bagdasarov was anxious. He shouted something to his assistants, he swore.
âAnd when the tigress woke up, he said â âall is ok, stand up, stand up my girlâ.â
Ms Bagdasarov – who with her brother is the third generation of a famous Russian circus dynasty – said: âWe did not have a stun gun. We will sue those who claim we did.â
She said: âThese things happen to animals. Maybe the blood sugar level dropped.
âPerhaps it was blood pressure attack, maybe hormones.
âWe have already called the vets and blood test was taken.
âOur vet is coming from Moscow soon, he will scan Zenaâs liver and kidneys.â
Advertisement for Bagdasarov show in Magnirogorsk
But the animal appeared to be recovering and is âeating wellâ ahead of a new performance on Sunday.
The Russian social media carried vitriolic criticism.
One critic said: âPlease ignore any circuses with animals. These âtrainersâ are sadists. Animals are very rare in circuses abroad.â
A woman called Irina hit out: âIt is just a horror.â
A man said: âYou pulled her tail. Shall we pull you the same way?â