Tiger attacks, kills keeper at Florida zoo - CNN
Story highlightsA Malayan tiger killed Stacey Konwiser, head keeper at the zoo, spokeswomansaysMalayan tigers are a critically endangered subspeciesThe attack happened in a contained areaNo guests were endangeredStacey Konwiser, 38, lead tiger keeper at the zoo, was killed by a 13-year-old male Malayan tiger, one of four at the facility, in the contained area where the animals arefed and sleep, Carter said. Zoo officials said it didn't appear Konwiser did anything out of the normas she worked in the enclosure, known as the tiger night house, and prepared to talk with zoovisitors about the animals in a "Tiger Talk."The tiger was off-exhibit at the time and no guests couldsee what happened, Carter said. The tiger was never on the loose, contrary to early reports on socialmedia, she said.West Palm Beach police said the tiger was tranquilized and officers waited until thedrugs took effect before they could reach the victim, CNN affiliate WPEC reported. Konwiser wastaken by helicopter to St. Mary's Medical Center.
'A tiger whisperer'Konwiser hadworked three years at the zoo and was very experienced with tigers, Carter said. Her husband,Jeremy Konwiser, is also a trainer at the zoo."This was her specialty," she said. "She loved tigers.You don't get into this business without the love for the animals and understanding the danger that'sinvolved even more."Konwiser had a special bond with the big cats, Carter told the Palm Beach Post."I kind of referred to her as a tiger whisperer," she said. "They spoke to each other in a languagethat only they could understand. And I can't put into words or make you understand for anyone whodidn't know Stacey how much she loved these tigers and how much this zoo family loved her. Andwhile she's no longer with us, her memory will live on."Konwiser graduated from Mount HolyokeCollege with a bachelor's degree in biology and received her master's degree in conservation biologyfrom the University of Queensland in Australia, the Palm Beach Zoo's official Facebook page
said.OSHA will investigate
Malayan tigers are a critically endangered subspecies. The Palm Beach Zoo provides a specialprogram in which guests can pay extra to see the tigers. There are less than 250 left in the world,Carter said. The zoo is part of a breeding program that aims to keep the animals from becomingextinct. Carter would not comment about the condition of the tiger except to say it has beencontained. The investigation is ongoing and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration istaking over. When the attack happened about 2 p.m., guests at the zoo were ushered into the giftshop before being told the zoo was closed for the day."This is my first time at the zoo," one zoovisitor, Beverly Johnson of Fort Pierce, told the Palm Beach Post. "I wasn't expecting this."The zoowas evacuated and will be closed through Saturday, Carter said.'They are trained to feel like that'stheir territory'Dave Salmoni, the large predator expert for Animal Planet, said he was not surprisedsuch an attack happened in the tiger night house. "Typically zoo cats, that's where they feel mostcomfortable," Salmoni said on "Anderson Cooper 360." "They are trained to feel like that's theirterritory. So when you talk about acts of aggression or acts of dominance, which this might havebeen either, that would be the most likely place for something like this."Salmoni said people whowork with big cats understand and accept the danger."It's heartbreaking to hear about a story ofsomeone who loves an animal so much," he said. "I can relate. The same thing could possibly happento me tomorrow."PETA criticizes zooPeople for Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a statementcriticizing the zoo."Today's incident is only the latest in a long list of fatal maulings around theworld, and that list will continue to grow as long as tigers and other exotic animals are locked incages and compounds for human amusement," said PETA Foundation Deputy Director of CaptiveAnimal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet."In nature, tigers have home ranges of hundreds of miles, soit's no wonder that confining them to small spaces causes them to lash out in the frustration, stress,anxiety and agitation that they suffer when they're denied their freedom and the ability to behavenormally in every way including choosing their mates, raising their young and seeking privacy fromprying eyes. "PETA sends our condolences to the zookeeper's family and hopes that this incident willsave human lives in the future by making zoos everywhere reconsider the confinement of big catsand other wildlife."Zoo issues statementThe zoo issued a statement Friday night and posted it on thezoo website."This marks the first death of a human involved in an animal incident in the history ofPalm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society. Grief counselors remain available to zoo staff affected bythis tragic incident. Our focus remains on providing the adequate support for our staff and familymembers who have been affected by this tragic incident."This is a very difficult situation for all zoostaff, family members of Konwiser, her family and the extended zoo family. We ask the media andpublic to respect the privacy of those involved during this difficult time."Other recent attacks by bigcats In January, a keeper was severely injured at an Australian zoo founded by the late wildlifeconservationist Steve Irwin. Last September, a keeper was attacked and killed by a a Sumatran tigerat a zoo in Hamilton, New Zealand. In June 2015, police shot and killed a white tiger that killed aman in Tbilisi, Georgia, after severe flooding allowed hundreds of wild animals to escape the cityzoo. In 2013, a 24-year-old woman working at a Northern California animal sanctuary was mauledand killed by a lion. In 2007, an escaped Siberian tiger attacked and killed one zoo patron andinjured two others in a cafe at the San Francisco Zoo. In 2003, a white tiger attacked Roy Horn ofSiegfried and Roy during a performance in Las Vegas. The tiger lunged at Horn's neck about halfwaythrough the show and dragged him off stage as audience members watched.