Florida zoo lead keeper died in a tiger-attack, immediate family members and coworkers mourn.
Stacey Konwiser, Palm Beach Zoo lead keeper was fatally injured by a 13-year-old endangered male Malayan tiger on April 15. Zoo staff and immediate family of the victim gathered to mourn on April 16.
"Konwiser was preparing the night house for the evening routine, which includes cleaning and feeding," said General Curator Jan Steele.
Konwiser was airlifted by the West Palm Beach Police helicopter from the zoo to St. Mary's Medical Center. The authorities tranquilized the tiger to be able to get the victim out of the tiger's den.
The zoo management is cooperating with the Konwiser family to establish a memorial fund in honor of the 38-year-old late lead keeper.
Funeral service was also planned and a note of support was read by Jeremy Konwiser, victim's husband and a fellow zoo staff.
"Please thank everyone for their support and kind words. This is a tragic and traumatic event for the zoo family, but together we can help each other heal. Human beings and animals lost a wonderful friend yesterday," said Jeremy Konwiser.
Colleagues and workmates described Konwiser as a wife, a sister, a daughter and a dedicated protector of endangered subspecies.
"Our condolences go out to the Konwiser family in the midst of this tragic loss," said Naki Carter, spokeswoman of Palm Beach Zoo.
"Stacey came here as a lead keeper, she is proficient and efficient in working with these animals," Carter added.
She added that Konwiser was up-to-date when it comes to protocols and was excellent in executing them daily. The staff were puzzled whether Konwiser did something out of the norm when she's inside the enclosure.
From her previous stint at the Living Desert Museum and Zoo, Stacey Konwiser transferred and started working at the Palm Beach Zoo three years ago. She is a well-oiled machine when it comes to managing large cats.
"She loved tigers. You don't get into this business without the love for the animals while understanding the danger that's involved even more," Carter said.
Konwiser earned her bachelor's degree in Biology at Mount Holyoke College and master's degree in Conservation Biology at University of Queensland, Australia.
After three days that the zoo was closed to public, it reopened Monday April 18, 9 a.m. Unfortunately, Keeper Talks, Experiences and shows are temporarily suspended but they have provided a 'Tiger FAQ' page.
Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society is cooperating in the on-going investigation of the incident, while West Palm Beach Police and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission are currently working on the case.