Zookeeper killed by tiger in Florida

Ruth Doherty
Palm Beach Zoo reopening today
Palm Beach Zoo reopening today

A keeper has been killed in a tiger attack at a zoo in Florida.

Stacey Konwiser, 38, lead tiger keeper at the Palm Beach Zoo, was killed by a 13-year-old male Malayan tiger, one of four at the facility, in the contained area where the animals are fed and sleep.

Konwiser had been preparing to talk visitors about the animals during the 'Tiger Talk' when the fatal incident occurred.

See also: Woman jumps zoo safety fence to get hat from tiger pen

See also: Tiger attacks keeper at Steve Irwin's zoo

Zoo spokesperson Naki Carter said the tiger was off-exhibit at the time and no guests saw what happened.

Carter said Stacey had a special bond with the big cats.

According to Fox2 Now, Carter said: "This was her specialty. She loved tigers. You don't get into this business without the love for the animals and understanding the danger that's involved even more.

"I kind of referred to her as a tiger whisperer. They spoke to each other in a language that only they could understand. And I can't put into words or make you understand for anyone who didn't know Stacey how much she loved these tigers and how much this zoo family loved her. And while she's no longer with us, her memory will live on."

Mrs Konwiser was airlifted to hospital after the tiger was tranquillised.

Stacey had worked at the zoo for three years and her husband, Jeremy Konwiser, is also a trainer there.

A statement on the zoo's website read: "This marks the first death of a human involved in an animal incident in the history of Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society. Grief counsellors remain available to zoo staff affected by this tragic incident. Our focus remains on providing the adequate support for our staff and family members who have been affected by this tragic incident.

"This is a very difficult situation for all zoo staff, family members of Konwiser, her family and the extended zoo family. We ask the media and public to respect the privacy of those involved during this difficult time."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating.

Malayan tigers are a critically endangered subspecies. According to CNN, the Palm Beach Zoo provides a special programme in which guests can pay extra to see the tigers.

There are less than 250 left in the world, Carter said, and the zoo is part of a breeding programme that aims to keep the animals from becoming extinct.