The zookeeper who was attacked and killed by a tiger didn't follow the safety protocol, the zoo's top official says.
Stacey Konwiser, who was killed by a Malayan tiger on April 15, was in the tiger's sleeping area during the attack. Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society President and CEO Andrew Aiken said that the investigation on the circumstances surrounding her death has concluded.
"The facts as we know them confirm that one of our most senior and experienced animal experts who was highly qualified and a leader in her zookeeper position, secured a portion of the tiger night house with a tiger in it, and then entered that same portion of the night house after it was clearly designated as accessible by a tiger," Aiken said in a statement.
The Palm Beach Zoo requires all employees to follow the policy. They are not allowed to go inside the enclosure as it is accessible to the animal.
A separate page has been created to provide information involving the incident. Aiken added that there was no indication that Konwiser tried to retrieve something inside the enclosure but he reiterated that she was extremely well-informed of the strength, quickness and stealth of a mature Malayan tiger.
When asked if the compartment door might have closed automatically, Aiken said that the investigation is still ongoing. He added that zookeepers can't lock themselves inside the enclosure because the doors lock from the outside.
Konwiser was alone when the incident happened. Though video monitoring equipment is installed in the enclosure, it is only activated for monitoring tiger cubs. Since there were no cubs during that time, the video monitoring was not turned on.
Before the incident, the zoo has projected a record-breaking year in terms of attendance. Visits to the zoo have been 4, 362 people ahead of the best ever fiscal year-to-date. It is projected that the figures will exceed 330,000 people, a 7,000-person increase over the previous year. Attendance, however, dropped over the weekend when the zoo was closed following the death of the zookeeper.
Aiken added that if facts are already confirmed, these will be provided to the public. The zoo has two main goals - to understand how the incident happened and ensure that it will never happen again in the future.
Photo: Mike Fisher | Flickr