The Florida zookeeper who was killed by a tiger at Palm Beach Zoo broke the zoo’s safety rules when she went into the tiger enclosure while the big cats were roaming around in it. Stacey Konwiser violated the zoo’s strict facility policy, and she paid with her life for it.
Konwiser, who had worked as a zookeeper at Florida’s Palm Beach Zoo for three years, died of a fatal neck injury inflicted by a 13-year-old male Malayan tiger. The 38-year-old experienced zookeeper was attacked on April 15 shortly before 2 p.m. while being in the tiger area.
Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society President & CEO, Andrew Aiken, issued a statement on April 22 in regard to the death of lead zookeeper Stacey Konwiser. The complete statement is available below:
“As President and Chief Executive Officer of the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, I want to thank everyone for supporting lead zookeeper Stacey Konwiser, her family and the entire Zoo family. I appreciate the interest of our community to learn and understand all the facts and circumstances that led to the recent death of Mrs. Konwiser, one week ago.
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. Under Palm Beach Zoo policy, Zoo employees are never allowed to enter a tiger enclosure to which the animal has access.
Why or how this could possibly occur is the subject of five ongoing investigations, including our own. Over the next few weeks we will continue to meet with employees, OSHA inspectors, detectives from the West Palm Beach Police Department, Florida Fish & Wildlife officers, investigators from the USDA and our own internal investigative team to understand every aspect of this tragic loss.
As the facts are known, we will provide them to you. All of us share two common goals: to completely understand how this could ever happen and to assure everyone that this will never happen again.”
In addition to the above statement provided by Aiken, Florida’s Palm Beach Zoo is encouraging media outlets to visit the zoo’s FAQ webpage which answers many questions about Konwiser and the tragic mauling of the zookeeper.
One of the most important questions is, of course, whether zookeepers like Konwiser are allowed to enter the tiger enclosure. According to the zoo’s policy and safety rules, employees are never allowed to enter an enclosure when a tiger is in the enclosure or has access to it. Zookeepers or any other employees can only enter a tiger enclosure when it is absolutely secured and no tiger can enter it.
As to why Konwiser would enter the tiger area to which the predator had access to, the zoo is still conducting its investigation. Available surveillance cameras are only used when tiger cubs are being born, and were thus not activated during the fatal attack.
The zoo has no indication that zookeeper Konwiser went into the tiger enclosure to retrieve something that she had forgotten or that she accidentally locked herself inside the enclosure while the tiger was present. The zoo states that the door to the tiger enclosure cannot be locked from the inside, only from the outside.
After zookeeper Stacey Konwiser was killed while breaking the zoo’s safety rules, many expressed their concern about the 13-year-old male Malayan tiger involved in the attack. According to the zoo’s statement, “the tiger involved in the death of the zookeeper at the Palm Beach Zoo was known, like all tigers, to pose a serious threat to humans. There has never been blame placed on this animal for its actions, and its future is not in jeopardy.”