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A zookeeper suffered 'lacerations and punctures' in a tiger attack at the zoo in Topeka, Kansas

A zookeeper is recovering in the hospital after she was attacked Saturday morning by a tiger at the Topeka, Kansas, zoo.The woman and a 7-year-old mal...

Posted: Apr 20, 2019 11:11 PM

A zookeeper is recovering in the hospital after she was attacked Saturday morning by a tiger at the Topeka, Kansas, zoo.

The woman and a 7-year-old male Sumatran tiger named Sanjiv were both in the tiger habitat shortly after the zoo opened when the tiger "essentially tackled our keeper," Zoo Director Brendan Wiley said at an afternoon press conference.

The zookeeper suffered "lacerations and punctures to the back of the head, neck, back and one arm," Wiley told reporters.

The zookeeper was transported to a local hospital where she received treatment. A spokeswoman for the City of Topeka previously told CNN that woman was "awake and alert" at the time she was taken to the hospital. She's currently in stable condition, Wiley said.

The zookeeper is the facility's primary tiger keeper, Wiley said, and has been working in that space for years.

"There really isn't a circumstance where they should have been in the same space, so there was some sort of error that occurred here," he said.

He later clarified that it's part of the daily process for the zookeeper to be in the tiger habitat to clean and maintain it, but the tiger should not have been in the space at that time.

Wiley said the zoo is not considering euthanizing the tiger. Sumatran tigers are a "critically rare" and "endangered" species, Wiley said. Sanjiv recently fathered four cubs.

"While this incident is very unfortunate," Wiley said, "he did what a wild animal, what a wild tiger does."

The director credited his staff with a speedy and effective response that got the incident under control within 10 minutes.

A notification was put out to all zoo staff after the attack. Elephant staff members were a short distance away and were able to lure the tiger back into its enclosure, where he was secured.

"The tiger was never out of its space," Wiley said.

Several guests did witness the attack, Wiley said. The zoo was briefly closed, but has subsequently reopened.

Wiley added, "We have absolutely no concerns about the safety of our guests here."

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Snow showers have left the area and we saw anywhere from 2-4 inches of snow. Surface temperatures for the most part remain above freezing so accumulations were mostly on elevated and grassy surfaces. Skies slowly cleared throughout the day with temperatures warming into the mid to upper 40s. Conditions look to dry out and slowly warm throughout the next few days. Rain chances will return mainly through the morning hours on Friday with temperatures back in the 60s. Temperatures will continue to warm through the weekend with highs back in the upper 60s and lower 70s. Temperatures will be close to 80s for the beginning of next week under mostly sunny skies.
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