A Rare White Tiger Mauled Japanese Zookeeper To Death, His Family Wants The Animal Spared

A Japanese zookeeper was killed by the rare white tiger he was caring for, and the man’s family are asking officials not to destroy the animal.

As ABC News reports, zookeeper Akira Furusho, 40, was found by colleagues lying on the floor of the tiger enclosure, bleeding from the neck. The 374-pound male tiger was sedated with a tranquilizer dart while colleagues came to the zookeeper’s aid. He was rushed to a hospital, where he later died. Officials at Hirakawa Zoological Park in Kagoshima believe the man was mauled by one of the zoo’s four rare white tigers. They say the man was probably killed when he was trying to move the 375-pound male from his daytime exhibition area into his nighttime quarters.

Akinori Ishido, director of the city-run zoo, says that no one witnessed the moment Furusho was killed. Ishido says that the zoo has procedures in place to prevent any humans from being in the same cage at the same time with dangerous animals. The zoo is investigating whether or not those safety procedures were properly followed.

The white tiger exhibit at the zoo has been closed to the public while police investigate the incident. Zoo officials say that the public was never in any danger from the animal.

Tourist Yukihiro Kawabata was at the zoo that day. He tells The Japan Times that he and his family had been looking forward to seeing the white tigers before the incident.

“I saw that on the news. We had been looking forward to seeing white tigers, so it is too bad.”

According to The Count, the tiger’s name is Riku. He’s 5-years-old and was born at the zoo. He is not a true albino tiger; rather, they’re genetically related to the orange-and-black-striped Bengal tigers, but with a gene that causes them to have black-and-white stripes. True albino tigers are completely white.

Meanwhile, Furusho’s family has asked that the tiger not be put down. As of this writing, it appears that Riku has not been destroyed, although whether or not that will happen remains unclear.

Unfortunately, Furusho is not the first zookeeper to be killed by the very tiger that he or she was caring for. Just last year, as The Guardian reported at the time, keeper Rosa King was killed by a Malayan tiger. Similar to Furusho’s case, King’s family asked that the animal not be destroyed, as King wouldn’t have wanted to have the animal put down. In fact, the animal was indeed allowed to live.