Hamilton Zoo staff striving for 'normality' after tiger attack

Oz the tiger (Hamilton City Council/Facebook)
Oz the tiger (Hamilton City Council/Facebook)

A zookeeper who was fatally attacked by a tiger at Hamilton Zoo shouldn't have been in the enclosure area at the same time as the big cat, the zoo says.

Hamilton Zoo reopened today after it was closed on Sunday when 43-year-old mother-of-two Samantha Kudeweh was killed by Oz, a Sumatran tiger.

Hamilton City Council (HCC) community general manager Lance Vervoort wouldn't go into detail about the incident because it is still being investigated, but says some circumstances may never be known.

"I wouldn't like to speculate, I think that would be inappropriate," he told media today. "Essentially she was in an enclosure area where there was a male tiger and that shouldn't have happened."

Mr Vervoort says Oz won't be on show until this weekend "out of respect" to Ms Kudeweh.

"There have been suggestions Oz should be shipped to another zoo, that's something we're not considering at this time," he says. "As we've stated, he will not be euthanised as he is an important member of his increasingly rare species."

The incident prompted immediate changes, including ensuring a second staff member is present to "act as an observer" while tiger management tasks are undertaken.

"We've taken into account the added pressure that staff are under from what has transpired over the weekend," Mr Vervoort says.

"There may well be further changes to our processes once the reports and thorough investigations into Samantha's death are completed in coming weeks."

The changes have been approved by the Ministry for Primary industries, which oversees management of zoos in New Zealand.

HCC chief executive Richard Briggs says it is pleasing to see the zoo open again.

"Our team are striving to return to normality as they deal with the loss of their colleague and friend, and reopening today will help with that."

A funeral service for Ms Kudeweh will be held at the Hamilton Gardens on Monday, during which the zoo will be closed.

A Givealittle donations page has so far raised more than $11,000 for Ms Kudeweh's family.

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