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Zookeeper Mauled by Tiger in Topeka

By Samuel Allegri

A zookeeper received lacerations and puncture wounds after being mauled by a 7-year-old Sumatran tiger while working at the Topeka Zoo.

At 9:15 a.m. on April 20, the zookeeper was injured in the head, neck, and back, zoo Director Brendan Wiley told cjonline.com.

That very afternoon, it was reported that the zookeeper, whose identity hasn’t been released, was in stable condition.

Officials are investigating the cause of the attack. Wiley said that both the tiger, called Sanjiv, and the zookeeper were in the tiger’s outdoor enclosure. Zookeepers clean and maintain the areas as part of their work routine, but it was abnormal that the tiger would be able to enter the area at the same time.

“There really isn’t a circumstance where they should be in the same space, so there was some sort of error that occurred,” Wiley said. “He essentially tackled our keeper,” he continued. “Sanjiv this morning did exactly what a tiger would when something comes into his territory … there is absolutely no consideration to euthanize Sanjiv.”

The zoo was open to the public during the attack, resulting in some visitors witnessing the incident.

City of Topeka spokeswoman Molly Hadfield said that the zoo had just opened, so there weren’t many visitors yet. There was a radio call that alerted zoo staff of an emergency, which led to a 911 call while staff arrived at the scene. They closed the zoo and contacted a firearms response team. While waiting for the arrival of the team, the young tiger was lured with food into a building. This enabled help to reach the keeper, who was conscious and alert when she was transported to the hospital in an ambulance.

The incident lasted less than 10 minutes and the zoo closed for around 45 minutes.

“It’s a very hard day here,” Wiley said. “Some of our staff witnessed some things that you hope you go through a career without witnessing.”

It’s the first time that an attack of this sort has occurred at the zoo.

Officials will be investigating the incident and discussing if any changes need to be put into effect. The tiger won’t be euthanized and wasn’t displayed for the rest of the day.

Sanjiv is a male Sumatran tiger, a critically endangered species that is solitary, meaning he was kept separate from other tigers at the zoo.