Zookeeper Killed By Malayan Tiger In Palm Beach

A zookeeper, killed by a Malayan tiger on Friday, April 15, 2016, was preparing for a talk show at the Palm Beach Zoo when the attack happened. Lead keeper Stacey Konwiser, known as the “tiger whisperer,” suffered a “severe bite” inside the Malayan tigers’ habitat.

Zookeeper Konwiser, 38, was killed around 2 p.m. by a male tiger in a special enclosure at the back of the exhibit. She was airlifted to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, where she died about an hour later.

According to Jezebel, Konwiser had been zookeeper at the Palm Beach facility for three years, when she was killed while preparing for the daily “Tiger Talk” show, in which tigers are featured demonstrating their natural abilities. The zoo made the following announcement on Facebook.

“It is with great sadness the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society mourns the loss of our Lead Keeper Stacey Konwiser. The entire Palm Beach Zoo family is saddened beyond what words can describe at this incident and tragic outcome.”

Stacey Konwiser
Stacey Konwiser, the “tiger whisperer” [Photo via Facebook]
Konwiser had recently accepted a position with the Food and Drug Administration, as part of a long-term career progression that would get her into the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. In a separate development, the zoo had reportedly gone through great lengths to create a new position for her, that would persuade her to stay.

Official reports indicate that the death was the first by an animal in the history of the zoo, and no guests were injured or at risk of injury because the tiger was never loose. Police tranquilized the tiger but had to wait for the drug to take effect in order to safely treat the zookeeper and transport her to St. Mary’s. According to Fox News, the male Malayan tiger that killed Konwiser remains at the Palm Beach Zoo and is recovering from the tranquilizer administered after the encounter.

Visitors were made to leave after a code red was issued, even with the area where the zookeeper was killed, secured and blocked from public access. The zoo is on lock-down and will remain closed until further notice.

According to NBC News, zoo public relations manager Naki Carter released a statement on the circumstances around what led to the zookeeper getting killed.

“There was nothing out of the norm as far as what she was conducting at that time. A tragic incident occurred. This was her specialty, she loved tigers. These keepers don’t get into this business without the love for these animals and understanding the danger that’s involved.”

No details have been released on the manner by which zookeeper Konwiser was killed. She was in the tiger enclosure, referred to as the “night house,” away from public view at the time of the incident. While official findings do not find Konwiser guilty of any wrongdoing, speculation continues about her interaction with the 300-pound tiger and what breach there was that led to the tiger attack.

Tiger enclosure
The tiger enclosure called the “night house” [Photo via Facebook]
The Animal Legal Defense Fund called upon the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Agriculture to determine how the zookeeper was killed and impose a penalty that would “ensure an end to these preventable deaths in zoos.” Fox News reported that the same group asked O.S.H.A. to enact workplace standards for employees who work with dangerous wild animals. The group issued the following statement.

“As long as employees are allowed to work in dangerously close proximity to tigers, elephants, and other dangerous animals, a significant risk of serious injury or death persists.”

Grief counselors have been assigned to the staff where the zookeeper was killed. Konwiser’s husband is also a keeper in the same facility.

[Photo via Facebook]

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