The zoo insisted the animal was only following her “natural instincts” reacting to an intruder in her territory.
A tiger that killed its handler in front of horrified visitors at a Swiss Zoo will not be euthanized.
Irina, a five-year-old Siberian tigress, mauled her 55-year-old zookeeper to death on Saturday, Zurich Zoo confirmed.
Witnesses raised the alarm after the cat turned on the woman; staff managed to distract the animal away from her, out of her enclosure and into a holding pen, before attempting to render first aid — but it was in vain.
“Sadly, all help came too late,” a spokesperson for Zurich police said. “The woman died at the scene.”
An investigation is now underway as to why the keeper, who was a long time staff member, was in the enclosure with the predator at the same time.
While officials at the zoo described the incident as “extremely tragic,” it added that the tiger was only following her “natural instincts” like a wild animal reacting to an intruder in her territory; Therefore, Irina would not be euthanized, despite having now tasted human flesh.
“Our full sympathy is with the relatives of the victim,” said zoo director Severin Dressen, adding that professional counseling has been offered to those who witnessed the attack.
Irina was born in 2015 at Odense Zoo in Denmark, before being transferred to the Swiss city last year, where she shared an enclosure with a four-and-a-half-year-old male, named Sayan. (pictured above, after the attack)
The zoo had only re-opened recently after a long coronavirus related shutdown.
It wasn’t the first animal attack on a keeper at the zoo; just eight months ago another keeper’s hand was bitten by a Philippine crocodile while its enclosure was being cleaned.
Staff was forced to shoot the critically endangered reptile dead when they were unable to force it to release him.