A tiger killed its veteran keeper in a South Florida zoo on Friday and investigators are trying to figure out what made this tiger turn on the woman. The tiger killed without warning leaving the lead zoo trainer dead. The tiger’s trainer was known as the “Tiger Whisperer” to friends because of her skill with these beautiful beasts of nature.
According to MSN News on April 16, Stacey Konwiser, 38, was going about her daily chores in the night quarters of the tigers, an area not visible to the public where the tigers eat and sleep. This is where the 13-year-old Malayan tiger turned on Konwiser.
According to CNN News, contrary to earlier reports on social media sites, the tiger was never on the loose, this attack happened in a secured area and out of eye shot of zoo visitors. Konwiser was the lead trainer at the zoo and she was highly skilled with a lot of experience under her belt working with these majestic cats.
Zoo staff tranquilized the tiger, but they had to wait for the sedative to take hold of the tiger before they could reach Konwiser. It is not known why the tiger wasn’t killed, but this rare Malayan tiger is one of only 250 in the world today. The zoo has four other Malayan tigers and acts as a breeder for this species to ensure this type of tiger doesn’t become extinct.
The brutal mauling has sparked ire from the Animal Legal Defense Found leaders who are urging federal authorities to impose penalties on the zoo claiming this death was totally preventable. The group, which is based out of California said in a statement: “As long as employees are allowed to work in dangerously close proximity to tigers, elephants, and other dangerous animals, a significant risk of serious injury or death persists.”
The group states that since 1990 “at least 24 deaths— and 265 injuries — were caused by ‘captive big cats’ in the United States. These attacks, and scenarios where an animal escapes, have also resulted in the deaths of over 128 big cats, many of whom were endangered species.” Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society has been in operation for 60 years and this is the first death of a staff person since the day it opened.
Fox News live today said that Konwiser, while only working at this zoo with the tiger for three years, had “extensive experience” working with tigers. She wasn’t doing anything out of the norm when she was attacked by the tiger. As her family at the South Florida zoo mourns her death today, the zoo remains closed. Konwiser’s husband is also on staff at the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society as a trainer.
CNN reports, that the zoo’s Facebook page indicates that “Konwiser graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor’s degree in biology and received her master’s degree in conservation biology from the University of Queensland in Australia.” PETA has released a message regarding the death of the zoo keeper which criticizes the zoo. The statement includes:
“Today’s incident is only the latest in a long list of fatal maulings around the world, and that list will continue to grow as long as tigers and other exotic animals are locked in cages and compounds for human amusement,” said PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet.
The statement continues saying; “In nature, tigers have home ranges of hundreds of miles, so it’s no wonder that confining them to small spaces causes them to lash out in the frustration, stress, anxiety and agitation that they suffer when they’re denied their freedom and the ability to behave normally in every way — including choosing their mates, raising their young and seeking privacy from prying eyes.”
The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals closed their statement by saying: “PETA sends our condolences to the zookeeper’s family and hopes that this incident will save human lives in the future by making zoos everywhere reconsider the confinement of big cats and other wildlife.”
While PETA’s point is well-taken and it mirrors the thoughts of many others today, this might not be the right time for the zoo family to hear this as they mourn the loss of one of their own. It is a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened, but it did. Now the people feeling this horrific loss need to mourn their friend, colleague and loved one.