PALM BEACH ZOO, FLORIDA
Palm Beach Zoo in Florida reopens this week after temporary closure over the weekend, following the mauling and death of “Tiger Whisperer”, Stacey Konwiser.
On Friday, the zoo released a statement publicly via social media, that lead keeper, Konwiser, age 38, had been attacked that afternoon. Konwiser was preparing for the afternoon “Tiger Talk” show when she was mauled in the tiger night house, which is the off exhibit back room where the tigers sleep and eat. This room has no public access and the general public of the zoo was not at risk.
Palm Beach Zoo set up a memorial fund for Stacey and closed the zoo for the weekend to investigate. The zoo reopened on Monday and the tiger is alive and healthy and still being housed at the zoo. According to zoo spokeswoman, Naki Carter, “There has never been blame, nor will there ever be blame assigned to the wild Malayan tiger involved in this deadly incident”.
This was the first deadly incident at the Palm Beach Zoo and the first incident in over 20 years in South Florida. Florida Fish and Wildlife officials continue to investigate the incident.
The preliminary investigation appears to show that 16 minutes passed between the attack and the 911 call. Paramedics arrived quickly but another 15 minutes passed before Konwiser could be transported to the medical helicopter. The tiger was tranquilized, and had to take effect before it was safe to enter the enclosure to retriever Konwiser.
The zoo never considered killing the tiger, one of only 250 Malayan tigers still in existence
Still, animal rights groups express concerns about the ethical nature of keeping tigers captive. Unlike some other wild animals, tigers never lose their hunting instincts and captivity can be dangerous for both human and animals alike. However, captive endangered species provide one of the few opportunities to research on such animals and hopefully prevent extinction. Animal rights organizations, however, feel there must be a better way to promote conservation without putting the wild animals or their zookeepers in life threatening situations.