Tiger mauls NZ zoo keeper to death
May 27, 2009
A zoo-keeper has been mauled to death by a white tiger in a New Zealand safari park, in the third attack in four months at the wildlife centre.
The keeper suffered serious “tearing” injuries to his abdomen and lower leg after being attacked when he and another keeper went to clean the white tiger enclosure at Zion Wildlife Centre in Whangarei, on North Island.
Northland Police District spokeswoman Sarah Kennett said the other keeper had tried to help his colleague but despite his best efforts, the tiger would not let go.
The man, who has not yet been named, died at the scene before an ambulance arrived at the park. The tiger has since been shot dead.
Eight British and French tourists visiting the park at the timewitnessed the attack. An Auckland man who was at the scene with two friends from the UK described the sight as “very very frightening.”
The wildlife centre, home to 42 rare lions and tigers, has been embroiled in controversy over the last year.
In February a keeper was hospitalised after being bitten on the knee while trying to move a tiger between two enclosures.
Demetri Price, a senior zoo-keeper, laughed off the attack at the time, saying he had “no worry at all” about the zoo’s safety.
“The danger involved in this kind of work … is all relative,” he told NZ television. “The way we go about this kind of work, generally you are pretty damn safe,” he said.
Mr Price had been rescued by the park’s senior cat handler Dalu Mncube, who used his hands to open the tiger’s jaws.
After saving his colleague from the tiger, Abu, Mr Mncube said: “If I got scared and panicked we could have had two casualties.”
In April, a Scottish teenager working at the park, Lisa Baxter, was left scarred for life, when Timba, an African white lion, sunk his teeth into both her hands after she put her hands through a hole in the fence designed for television cameras to stroke a cub.
The park was criticised after it failed to tell the Labour Department about the attack.
The park is also currently involved in an employment tribunal with Craig Busch, whose Lionman television series has an international audience.
Mr Busch, who is claiming unfair dismissal, claims that he was so concerned about conditions at the park that he reported it to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).
A MAF investigation expressed concern that animals were kept in crowded, insanitary conditions, according to NZ media.
MAF refused to comment on the claims.
“MAF is cooperating fully with the Police and Department of Labour in their investigations into the Zion Wildlife Park death,” a spokesman said in a statement.
“We would like to extend our sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of the keeper. “
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