Stacey Konwiser, the Palm Beach zookeeper who was mauled to death by a tiger, broke the zoo’s safety protocols by being in the tiger’s sleeping area, according to zoo officials.
On April 15, Konwiser, known as the “Tiger Whisperer,” entered a secured area where the tigers eat and sleep, which is against the rules. Upon entering the enclosure, Stacey was attacked by a 13-year-old Malayan tiger, who proceeded to maul her to death. After the attack, the tiger, one of four at the zoo, was tranquilized. The authorities then had to wait until the sedative took effect before they could come to Konwiser’s rescue, according to the New York Daily News. Stacey was then airlifted to a hospital, where she later succumbed to her injuries.
— The Palm Beach Post (@pbpost) April 15, 2016
Following a preliminary investigation, Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society President Andrew Aiken issued a statement on the zoo’s official Facebook page.
“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,” Aiken wrote. “Under Palm Beach Zoo policy, zoo employees are never allowed to enter a tiger enclosure to which the animal has access.”
According to USA Today, in a Frequently Asked Questions post on the zoo’s web page, Aiken continued to speculate as to why Stacey, who had worked at the zoo for three years, would go into the tiger’s sleeping area knowing it was not allowed and very dangerous.
— Michele Wright (@michelewrightTV) April 23, 2016
“There is absolutely no mystery as to how Stacey Konwiser died,” Aiken wrote. “The question is: why did a deeply talented and experienced Zookeeper, fully aware of the presence of a tiger and knowledgeable of our safety protocols, enter a tiger enclosure into which a tiger had access?”
Along with the zoo’s own investigation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and several local agencies are investigating the attack.
“As the facts are known, we will provide them to you,” Aiken added. “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.”
— Al Pefley (@AlPefley) April 18, 2016
The Palm Beach Zoo has been criticized for not shooting the tiger, who has not been named, and they stand by their decision to refrain from using deadly force. Palm Beach Zoo spokeswoman Naki Carter spoke about their decision to only tranquilize the tiger earlier this week.
“We are equipped to tranquilize and we are equipped to shoot to kill,” Carter said. “There are a lot of things to consider.”
“[The type of ammunition] comes with a series of checks and balances,” she added. “All those things have to be factored in. And based on what we know at this time, we are equipped to do both, and we stand by the decision to tranq.”
A Florida zoo mourns the loss of a veteran tiger-keeper who died after being mauled.https://t.co/jutsAtDYY9
— CBS 6 Albany – WRGB (@CBS6Albany) April 16, 2016
[Photo via Shutterstock]