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As Others Watched in Horror, Tiger Attacked Zookeeper

Newser — Jenn Gidman

A 5-year-old Siberian tiger attacked and killed a zookeeper Saturday at Switzerland's Zurich Zoo as other staff and guests looked on in horror. The BBC reports the attack on the 55-year-old keeper happened just after 1pm local time in the tiger enclosure, where Irina, the female tiger who went after the staff member, and Sayan, a 4-year-old male tiger, are kept.

Other staffers managed to lure Irina out of the enclosure and into a holding area, but the zookeeper, who'd reportedly worked at the zoo for a while, couldn't be resuscitated and died at the scene, a police spokeswoman says, per the South China Morning Post.

"Sadly, all help came too late," the police rep notes.

Irina was born in a Denmark zoo in 2015 and arrived at her Zurich home a year ago.

"This is a young animal that so far has behaved entirely naturally as a tiger does," says Severin Dressen, the zoo's director. While noting that the incident was "highly tragic," the zoo says in a statement that Irina won't be euthanized, per the Sunday Express: "A person in her exhibit is an intruder into her territory. In her reaction she followed her natural instincts exclusively." The zoo, which had only recently reopened after being shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic, stayed closed Sunday, and professional counseling was offered to anyone who witnessed the attack.

Investigators are trying to figure out why the zookeeper was in the cage at the same time as the tiger.

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