WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., April 15 (UPI) — A tiger specialist at a South Florida zoo was killed Friday after she was attacked by one of the cats held in captivity, officials said.
Stacey Konwiser was targeted by one of the Palm Beach Zoo’s four Malayan Tigers in a room where the cats eat and sleep, zoo spokeswoman Naki Carter said. The room, also called the “night house,” is considered a Class 1 area at the zoo — which is the most dangerous level.
Because the night room is off-limits to the public, zoo officials said no one else was threatened by the tiger.
“The zoo immediately went into lockdown mode,” Carter said. “Guests were never in danger at any time.”
“This is an absolute out of body experience. This is a death in the family,” Carter said. “When you go into this profession as a keeper, you go because you have a passion. That passion is animals and endangered species.”
Konwiser, 38, had worked specifically with the Malayan Tigers at the zoo and was even informally known as the “tiger whisperer.”
A zoo official reportedly said she died after sustaining a severe bite from a male tiger.
“This is the first death at the hands of an animal in the history of the Palm Beach Zoo,” Carter added.
Konwiser’s husband also is a zookeeper, news reports said.