Inattention blamed for fatal tiger attack at Zurich zoo

The tigress' life was spared as it was an accident. Keystone / Steffen Schmidt

An investigation into the incident which occurred last year has concluded that the keeper had not closed all the protective barriers.

This content was published on March 24, 2021 - 18:21

The fatal attack by a Siberian tiger at Zurich Zoo last July was the result of a mistake by the 55-year-old zookeeper, the Zurich public prosecutor's office said on Wednesday. There is every reason to believe that the keeper inadvertently failed to close the fence completely to protect her from the animal, the investigating authority added. The tigress was thus able to reach the area that the keeper thought was secure.

The zoo's big cats are permanently separated from humans. When a keeper needs to enter their enclosures, they must remotely lock several sliding gates so that the animal does not have access to this space. 

The investigation has ruled out foul play or technical defects in zoo infrastructure. As a result, the prosecutor has closed the case and deemed it a self-inflicted accident at work.

Tragic circumstances

A visitor to the zoo had alerted the emergency service on July 4 last year at around 1.20pm when he saw that Irina the tigress was attacking an employee. Once on the spot, several zoo staff managed to distract the animal so that it released the keeper, but it was already too late. The woman died at the scene.
“Wherever people and wild animals are involved, there is always a small residual risk. Even minor carelessness can have serious consequences. The tragic incident made this painfully clear to us,” said zoo director Severin Dressen.

This is not the first animal attack reported in the Zurich zoo. In December 2019,  a male Philippine crocodile grabbed a zookeeper's arm during a routine enclosure cleaning operation. The keeper was injured and had to go undergo surgery while the reptile was shot.

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