Tiger kills keeper at Hamilton Zoo
A WOMAN has died in a tiger attack at Hamilton Zoo this morning. It has been confirmed the woman was a zoo keeper.
The victim's name would not be released today, Waikato Police Senior Sergeant Juliet Burgess said.
Police were advising the next-of-kin but would require significant time to do so, she said. Emergency services were called to the Hamilton Zoo just after 11am this morning, after reports a zookeeper had been attacked.
"Sadly the staff member who was attacked by the tiger has died at the scene.
"This is a tragic incident. It is too early to determine exactly what's happened."
Hamilton police were working with zoo staff and WorkSafe NZ to investigate.
Hamilton photographer David Rowe arrived at the zoo with a bunch of flowers.
Mr Rowe says he has photographed the Tigers and worked with zoo staff for quite some time.
There are two zoo keepers, one male one female, who are in charge of the Tigers but other zoo staff also help.
Firefighters had been called to the scene at 11.07am, he said.
"All I'm aware of is we got a job sent to us from ambulance to assist in any way we can.
"There has been a reported attack of a tiger on a zookeeper at Hamilton Zoo."
St John spokeswoman Teneale Lawrence said ambulances were notified of the incident at 11.02am, arriving shortly after. A veterinarian has also arrived at the scene. Two Hamilton police detectives are now on site and Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker has also just arrived.
The zoo itself has been closed with zoo-goers told to leave the facility. WorkSafe has been notified of the incident and is investigating, a spokesman said. No further information about the investigation could be released.
The zoo doesn't appear overly busy, with fewer than a dozen vehicles in the car park.
Hamilton Zoo visitor experience manager Dave Smart fronted media outside the front of the zoo's reception earlier.
However he declined to comment on the status of the zoo keeper at that time, or how serious the victim's injuries were, other than to say there were currently no safety risks inside the premises.
Before confirming the death, St John earlier tweeted that one patient was in a critical condition after an "animal attack" in Rotokauri, where the zoo is located.
Two ambulance vehicles had attended at 11.02am to treat one patient. "No transport was required."
Adam Rich, who is visiting the city from Melbourne, said he saw a female keeper open the gates so the zoo's tigers could access an outside area of the enclosure not long before the attack happened.
Zoo staff then approached him and asked him to leave.
"They seemed a bit panicky. I thought an animal had escaped but they guaranteed that an animal did not escape."
He then heard an announcement from zoo staff asking all visitors to leave. All visitors were then offered refunds.
Today's tragedy follows the death of lion keeper Dalu Mncube in May 2009 at Whangarei's Zion Wildlife Garden, who was fatally mauled by a white tiger.
The 260kg tiger was shot dead shortly after the attack.
In April 2012, visitors and staff watched in horror as zoo keeper Dr Helen Schofield was killed by an elephant at Franklin Zoo. She was killed when 39-year-old African elephant Mila picked her up after Dr Schofield went into its enclosure.
Franklin Zoo staff members used food and hay to lure Mila away. But when an advanced paramedic arrived soon after, Dr Schofield was dead.
According to Wikipedia, in January 2000, construction started on a Sumatran tiger exhibit. It was completed in January 2001 and cost $430,000. It features a large pool, climbing structures and bamboo glades.
In March 2001, 14-month-old Sumatran tiger siblings, male Jaka, and females Mencari and Molek, arrived from Wellington Zoo.
Although not originally intended to breed, the death of their sister, Nisha in May 2006 caused the species coordinator to recommend one of the Hamilton Zoo females to take her place.
As the more confident female, Molek was chosen and she was sent to Auckland Zoo that September.
In July 2012, Hamilton Zoo received a four-year-old tigress, Sali, from Dreamworld on the Gold Coast. She is the zoo's potential breeding female after Mencari was speyed in 2010.
In November 2013, Hamilton Zoo sent its male, Jaka, to Auckland Zoo in exchange for its male, Oz.
People have posted messages of support on Facebook, in the aftermath of the incident.
Selena McMinn wrote: "My thoughts are with the Keeper and Tiger involved in this morning's incident. I hope everyone is okay. Stay Strong."
Karollina Marfell agreed: "and to those that may have witnessed this including emergency support service people there at the moment", she wrote.
Twitter user Liz Clark said it was tragic news: "Heartfelt condolences to her," she wrote.
Hamilton Zoo is home to a number of Sumatran tigers - a rare sub-species of tiger.
The zoo's female Sumatran tiger, named Sali, had two cubs in November 2014.
When the cubs - Kirana and Kembali - were named, the zoo's curator Samantha Kudeweh said they were "fighting fit and full of energy".
They were still nursing from their mother in May this year but also ate about 2kg of meat each day.
"They are confident little cats who are eager to explore their world," she said.
The cubs' father Oz is housed in a neighbouring enclosure and the cubs and the tiger family can often be seen relaxing near each other.
Oz was brought to Hamilton Zoo in 2014 as part of the Global Species Management plan for Sumatran tigers, and the birth of the two cubs was heralded as a significant achievement for the zoo and the critically endangered Sumatran tiger species.