Tragedy has struck the Palm Beach Zoo in Florida as a 13 year old male Malayan Tiger attacked the lead tiger keeper Friday afternoon. The zoo was put on immediate lock down following the incident, as guests were ushered into the gift shop until the situation could be assessed.
The trainer was identified as 38 year old Stacey Konwiser, who has been with the zoo for about three years. Konwiser was the lead tiger keeper at the zoo, and worked with the animals on a daily basis. The incident happened around 2 p.m. at the zoo’s “Night House”. The Night House is the area that the animals sleep, and are fed. It’s behind the scenes at the zoo, and an area where guests can not access.
Konwiser’s husband is also a keeper at the zoo, and the two had worked together for some time. The keeper was getting ready for a “Tiger Talk” program, in which the keepers showcase and talk about the tigers. This is the first death at the zoo’s over 25 year existence.
The tiger was a Malayan Tiger, which is critically endangered. There are roughly about 300 of these animals in the wild, with even fewer in captivity. The Malayan Tiger is found in the central Malay Peninsula.
Investigations will continue over the next few weeks to determine what went wrong, and what caused the tiger to attack. The tiger was not shot, but tranquilized instead. The zoo said that there was enough staff on hand to handle the situation, and keep the tiger from posing any further threat.
While it is always unfortunate when an accident happens, it’s important to remember that the animals are wild animals. Keepers are trained to handle the animals, and even connect with the animals over time, however accidents can always happen. The Palm Beach zoo has been accredited by the American Zoological Association for 25 years, and has had a pretty spotless record.
While it’s easy to say “free the animals”, especially after an unfortunate incident, you must remember that the majority of the animals are born in captivity and have depended on human care for so long that they would not survive being released into the wild. Also, zoos are an important part of the conservation efforts throughout the world. By keeping the animals, zoos can learn about animal behavior, habits and more, and can use that information around the world to help future generations in the wild. Zoos also teach us what we can do to help animals in the wild, and actually gets us involved in protecting animals. It’s a message that is needed now, more than ever, as more animals have faced extinction in the past 100 years than any other time on the planet.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, and to the zoo.