- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

MEXICO CITY (AP) - The American owner of a wildlife park in the Mexican resort of Tulum died after being kicked, bitten and sat on by a camel, and authorities seized the private facility’s animals pending an investigation.

Rescuers had to use a rope tied to a pickup truck to pull the enraged camel off the body of Richard Mileski of Chicago, Tulum Civil Defense official Alberto Canto said Wednesday. He said the attack happened Monday.

“The camel kicked and bit him practically to death, and when he was almost dead, he sat on him,” Canto said. “Between the blows and the weight of the camel on top of him, he was asphyxiated.”

He said it was still unclear why the animal, which was in a kind of enclosure, attacked Mileski, and authorities were sorting through a number of versions, including one that the camel was angry not to get a soft drink.

“One version is that he would always give him a Coca-Cola to drink, and apparently that day he didn’t give him the Coca-Cola,” Canto said. But, he added, “there are a lot of versions.”

The U.S. Embassy confirmed the victim’s name and said he died Tuesday.

A statement posted by the sanctuary on its Facebook page said Mileski died Monday at age 60.

“Richard lost his life caring for one of the animals that he has dedicated the last 15 year of his life to saving,” the statement said.

“Richard founded the Tulum Monkey Sanctuary on his ranch in order to help rescue an endangered species, the spider monkey, from extinction,” it added. “But he did not limit himself to helping the monkeys for his compassion ran the entire range of species from dogs to ducks and horses to javali.”

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office for Environmental Protection said late Tuesday that the camel, 13 spider monkeys, six deer, two emus, two llamas and a wild boar were placed under seizure orders, but were being kept at the sanctuary pending investigation.

The office said the park did not have papers proving the legal ownership of the animals. It said the animals “will be held by the manager of the facility in administrative custody,” meaning they can’t leave the park but will be cared for.

The facility is on a road between Tulum and the nearby Maya ruin site of Coba. The office gave the name as Tulum Monkey Jungle.

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