Tiger grabs female keeper, 55, by neck and mauls her to death in front of small child at Zurich zoo


A SIBERIAN tiger “grabbed a female keeper by the neck” and killed her in front of shocked visitors, including a child, say eyewitnesses.

Zurich Zoo staff rushed to the 55-year-old’s aid and tried to resuscitate her but “sadly all help came too late,” police spokeswoman Judith Hoedl said.

Horrified sightseers raised the alarm after female tiger Irina attacked the zookeeper inside the big cat enclosure shortly after 1pm local time on Saturday.

Blick TV in Switzerland quoted one horrified eyewitness who said that it took about eight to nine minutes for help from the zoo staff to arrive.

“The tiger had grabbed the woman by the neck,” he says. 

Apparently a small child was among those who saw the shocking fatal attack.

Another eyewitness said that four police cars and an ambulance dashed to the tiger enclosure, in the middle of the zoo.

“The police ran with pepper spray and rubber shot towards one of the animal enclosures,” he told Blick.

In a statement, a zoo spokesperson said “the zoo’s internal emergency centre received a message that an animal keeper in the tiger facility had been attacked by a Siberian tiger.

“A group of zookeepers immediately moved to the enclosure.

“They succeeded in luring Irina away from the animal keeper, out of the facility and into the stable.

“Despite immediate resuscitation measures, the 55-year-old woman was unfortunately too late to help and died on the spot.”

They added: “How the tragic incident happened and why the animal keeper was in the enclosure at the same time as the tiger is now being examined by the public prosecutor, the police, and forensics.”

Zoo director Severin Dressen later told reporters: “Our full sympathy is with the relatives of the victim.”

He said that the keeper had been a long-term member of the zoo staff.

“This is a young animal that so far has behaved entirely naturally as a tiger does,” Dressen added.

Irina was born in 2015 at a zoo in the Danish city of Odense and transferred to Zurich a year ago, according to Dressen.

She had replaced a female who died from complications after a fight with another tiger in the enclosure, Sayan.

Visitors and colleagues who witnessed the attack were receiving psychological counselling, he added.

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

In an update today, the zoo said the woman’s death “is extremely tragic and Zurich Zoo is deeply affected.

“Nevertheless, the zoo notes that the tiger is a wild animal.

“A person in their facility is an intruder into their territory. In her reaction, she only followed her natural instincts.”

The zoo confirmed the animal would not be euthanised.



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