According to a report by The Guardian, a female zookeeper, later named to be 34 year old Rosa King of Chippenham, in Wiltshire, England, was mauled to death by a tiger at Hamerton Park Zoo in Cambridgeshire this past Monday morning.
According to a report by BBC, Rosa's mother, Andrea King, stated that Rosa adored her job as a carnivore keeper and that "she wouldn't have done anything else, it's what she has always done."
Ms. King's close friend, wildlife photographer Gary Chisholm, said that Rosa was the pride and joy of the zoo. "She was the absolute central point of it, the focal point of it. She was the shining light of it," Chisholm, 59, told reporters. "Rosa wasn't just a keeper at Hamerton Zoo - she was Hamerton Zoo," he added.
Officers attending to the the tragedy described the attack as a "freak accident" and do not suspect anything suspicious. Despite a Cambridgeshire police station stating that “At no time did the animal escape from the enclosure,” the zoo staff still evacuated the premises following the incident.
Jeff Knott, one witness to the evacuation proceedings, stated that the zoo staff was "a real credit" to the park during the events that followed the attack. “We had been in the zoo since about 10:30 a.m. and heard/seen nothing until asked to leave about 11:45 a.m," Knott said, "Staff were very calm and professional. All visitors around us were leaving in a very calm manner – no running, shouting or anything similar,” Knott told reporters.
The Hamerton Park Zoo later released a statement regarding the tragedy, saying, “We are sorry but our staff are too distressed to speak directly to the media as one of our colleagues was killed this morning. This appears to be a freak accident. A full investigation is currently under way and we hope that more details can be announced as soon as possible. At no point during the incident did any animals escape their enclosures and at no point was public safety affected in any way. All our thoughts and sympathies are with our colleagues, friends and families at this dreadful time.”
Hamerton Park Zoo has housed tigers since 2001, when its first pair of Bengal tigers was admitted. It also houses Malayan tigers in its "Land of Tigers" attraction. All animals are kept in a house and paddock area, with glass windows installed for public viewing.
The zoo remained closed on Tuesday as police launched a full-scale investigation, but the park has plans to re-open at some point in the future. As of now, it is unclear which tiger was involved in the mauling and no animal has been harmed in the fallout.