A female zookeeper was killed by a tiger on Monday as panicked visitors evacuated after hearing “blood-curdling screams.” The attack happened inside the tiger’s enclosure, and zoo officials say the tiger never escaped and the public was not at risk.
The investigation continues as to exactly what led to the fatal tiger attack, but some visitors that went to the Hamerton Zoo in England on Monday spoke out about their experiences. Piecing together eyewitness accounts paints a grim and chaotic picture of the zoo’s tiger attack.
Rosa King, 34, ran into the tiger’s enclosure after hearing a colleague shouting for help. Moments later, visitors heard the blood-curdling scream that caused one visitor to remark, “It sounds like a tiger turned on her.”
“There’s no doubting it was a girl’s scream and something terrible had happened.”
That was the moment “all hell let loose.”
Someone, possibly one of the keepers, shouted, “Run!” A group of panicked visitors, thinking a tiger had escaped, hid in the safety of the keepers’ quarters for about ten minutes before zoo staff told them they could leave. Meanwhile, zookeepers ran towards the sound of the scream in a last-ditch effort to keep people and animals safe.
They were too late.
Although they tried to distract the tiger with pieces of meat, the situation was hopeless. Rosa King was pronounced dead.
One visitor, who arrived just as the tiger attack was taking place, described the hopelessness of the situation.
“I just can’t imagine how devastating it was for the poor workmates who desperately ran to try and distract the tiger with large lumps of meat.”
The buckets of meat were no distraction, and the damage had already been done.
A wildlife expert told The Mirror that the tiger attack was likely hopeless from the moment it happened, and nothing short of a high-velocity rifle could have saved Rosa King from her untimely fate. The attack would have lasted less than thirty seconds and been over before staff could react.
This, due to the speed, agility, and–most of all–power of the tiger.
Visitors were evacuated, and police arrived at the scene. The man-eating tiger prowled along the fence as uniformed officers stood guard.
In the aftermath of the attack, zoo staff was too distraught to speak to the media but did release a statement explaining Rosa’s death and some of the details of what happened. The Campbridgeshire Constabulary–the police agency investigating the attack incident–released a statement as well.
“A tiger had entered an enclosure with a keeper. Sadly the female zookeeper died at the scene. At no time did the animal escape from the enclosure. The incident is not believed to be suspicious.”
Zoo animal enclosures are typically double-fenced, with keepers entering a small fenced-in area outside the tiger’s enclosure before proceeding into the enclosure if necessary. Much like the double-gate at a dog park, this system allows keepers an added layer of security and preparation before entering the territory of these dangerous big cats.
It seems that the keeper was in this smaller enclosed area when she shouted for help.
Rosa King was a passionate and dedicated zookeeper. Colleagues and visitors spoke highly of her. She loved large predatory animals, especially big cats. Many who knew her spoke of being devastated by the tragedy.
“Rosa loved and respected those animals to the point where each and every one was like a child to her.”
The tiger’s fate remains to be seen, but most likely it will not be destroyed. Friends of Rosa King, the zookeeper killed by the tiger, said she would not want that.
[Featured Image by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images]