Siberian tiger kills zookeeper in front of visitors

A 55-year-old keeper at Zurich’s zoo was killed by one of the park’s Siberian tigers, officials in the Swiss city said. Horrified visitors raised the alarm after seeing the tiger attack the female keeper inside the big cat enclosure shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, prompting staff members to rush to her aid.

They were able to lure the Siberian tiger, named Irina, away from their colleague and out of the enclosure while first responders tried to revive the injured keeper.

“Sadly all help came too late. The woman died at the scene,” Zurich police spokeswoman Judith Hoedl said.

Siberian tiger in the Zurich zoo
Siberian tiger in the Zurich zoo.

RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Hoedl said an investigation has been launched into the incident, including why the keeper was in the enclosure at the same time as the tiger.

The Siberian tiger, named Irina, was born in 2015 at a zoo in the Danish city of Odense and transferred to Zurich a year ago, according to Zoo Zurich director Severin Dressen. The tiger behaved normally, he said.

“Our full sympathy is with the relatives of the victim,” Dressen said, adding that the keeper had been a long-term member of the zoo staff.

In a statement released Sunday, the zoo called the incident “highly tragic” but said there would be “no consequences” for the tiger.

“We would like to note that the Amurtigine is a wild animal. A person in their facility is an intruder into their territory for them. She followed her natural instincts in her reaction,” the zoo said.

Visitors and colleagues who witnessed the attack were receiving psychological counseling, he said.

The zoo, which only recently reopened following a coronavirus-related shutdown, will remain closed Sunday.

BBC News reports this is not the first attack at the zoo. Last December, a crocodile at the zoo had to be shot after it bit the hand of a keeper and would not release its grip. 

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