Tiger mauls zookeeper at Russian zoo

Sumatran Tiger yawning
Photo credit: Getty

A zookeeper has been horrifically mauled by a tiger in Russia after its cage was accidentally left open.

The keeper at Kaliningrad Zoo was bringing food to the 15-year-old male animal in front of visitors, when the Siberian big cat attacked.

Images show the woman held down on her back and screaming while the tiger mauls her.

The horrified tourists battled to save her, hurling a table and chairs at the beast while others screamed and shouted to distract it from its prey.

 "The girl's face was bleeding - she screamed and tried to fight off the animal," one witness told media.

A spokesperson for the zoo said the attack was out of character for the animal.

"The animal entered the enclosure when the keeper was there. The tiger attacked the human," they said.

"Visitors with their shouting, stones and other improvisation managed to distract the animal. This allowed the zoo employee to hide in a back room."

The woman was badly injured, but is expected to survive after receiving hospital treatment.

The tiger was reported to be "stressed" after the attack.