A 37-year-old female zookeeper, Stacey Konwiser, was mauled to death by a Malayan tiger while performing a “routine procedure” in the animal’s enclosure. The zoo employee was performing the procedure when the male tiger attacked. Staff at the zoo quickly contained the tiger after it attacked Konwiser, but it was too late. The female zookeeper would die from the “severe bite.”
The Palm Beach Post reports that 37-year-old zookeeper Stacey Konwiser was killed while working at the Palm Beach Zoo in West Palm Beach, Florida. The woman was allegedly performing a “routine procedure” when a male tiger in the enclosure attacked. The tiger left a “severe bite” on the zookeeper and she was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital. However, Konwiser would die from her wounds.
Stacey Konwiser was a lead zookeeper and had been called the “tiger whisperer” by colleagues due to how well she worked with the zoo’s four Malayan tigers. Naki Carter, the Palm Beach Zoo spokeswoman, says that the zoo family is distraught over Stacey’s death and that it is an “out-of-body experience” as they would have never expected a tragedy like this at the zoo.
“This is the first death at the hands of an animal in the history of the Palm Beach Zoo. There are no words to describe. We’ve lost a family member. This is a family that is in mourning right now. When you go into this profession as a keeper, you go because you have a passion. That passion is animals and endangered species. This is an absolute out-of-body experience. This is a death in the family.”
Carter also revealed that Stacey Konwiser’s husband also worked at the Palm Beach Zoo as a zookeeper but did not disclose if he was present at the zoo during the time of the tiger mauling. She noted that the pair did not have any children together and that Stacy’s family had been notified of her death.
This is the first zookeeper death at the Palm Beach Zoo at the hands of any animal. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, as well as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, will be investigating what went wrong to lead to the zookeeper’s death.
Prior to her death, Stacey was noted as working especially well with the tigers at the zoo. In fact, she was called the “tiger whisperer” and was often found caring for the tigers. At the time of her death, the dedicated zookeeper was performing “routine procedures” in the tigers’ “night house.” This is a “behind-the-scenes” area where visitors are not allowed. It serves as a “safe haven” for the large cats and is the location that the tigers are fed and sleep. The night house is considered a Class 1 area at the zoo, which means most dangerous. However, it was noted that Stacey was performing tasks that were routine when the male tiger attacked her.
Stacy was adamant about saving the tigers and her personal Facebook page is filled with images of the majestic beasts.
It is not known what triggered the tiger attack, but the zoo spokesperson notes that Stacey was very proficient at her duties.
“She was very proficient and efficient handling these animals and something happened. Exactly what occurred remains under investigation.”
According to the Sun Sentinel, the zoo maintains that at no point were guests in danger at the zoo despite the Code Red lock down. The incident took place in an area off-limits to guests and the Code Red was performed as a safety measure.
“We have safety protocols for when incidents like this occur. We initiated those safety protocols.”
Guests at the zoo say that they were ushered into the gift shop and placed on lockdown until all 500 of the zoos animals were determined to be in their rightful places. One witness says she say the tiger at 1 p.m. in its public enclosure and decided to head back to the area at 2 p.m. for the scheduled public feeding. However, she says when she arrived at the enclosure just before 2 p.m. a zoo worker was running across the enclosure saying “we need to evacuate.” The zookeeper mauling took place just before 2 p.m.
[Image via Facebook/Palm Beach Zoo]