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Siegfried speaks

Siegfried Fischbacher spoke Wednesday on CNN's "Larry King Live."

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From the Wolf Blitzer Reports staff in Washington:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Roy Horn, magician, tiger-trainer and Las Vegas superstar, was maimed by one of his own tigers, in front of a live audience last week.

As Horn lay in a Las Vegas hospital, still fighting for his life, his longtime partner in showbiz made a startling assertion. In an exclusive interview with CNN's Larry King, Siegfried Fischbacher said this was no mauling.

"Roy was falling. He fell and wanted the protect because that's danger, you know? An animal like this and tripping and gone over there ... So he took Roy and put him backstage behind the curtain to protect him. And then he let Roy go and went back," said Fischbacher.

He also told King that, after he was freed from the tiger's grip, Siegfried said, "Don't harm the tiger."

Witnesses in the audience Friday night said it looked like the tiger lashed out against Horn, mauled him, then carried him off stage. One witness said Horn looked like a rag-doll in the tiger's mouth.

Siegfried and Roy

But Fischbacher repeated his claim during the interview, saying this was an accident; that Horn actually fell and the tiger was trying to help him, but was simply unaware of its own strength.

"A tiger, when he grabs you, it's the strength ... He thinks it's another tiger, and another tiger has thick skin like this, and the fur," Fischbacher explained. "If it would be that the tiger would be out for killing Roy, it would [have happened] in no time."

The questions seem to out-number the answers. Was the tiger trying to protect Horn? Are Siegfried, Roy and their managers trying to protect the rare, endangered tiger from being destroyed?

Another potential problem for the duo has arisen. CNN has learned the Agriculture Department has launched an investigation of the "Siegfried and Roy" show for possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act. That law says, during a public exhibition, there should be minimal risk to the animal and the public, with sufficient distance or barriers between the animal and the audience. During the "Siegfried and Roy" show, some audience members sit very close to the stage with no barriers.

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