White tiger victim 'played dead' in cage
14:00 AEST Tue Dec 29 2009
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A German zookeeper who was bitten on the neck by a white tiger says she played dead to avoid being killed.
Nearly two weeks ago, Karim the male tiger attacked Linda Gruhn, 30, while she was cleaning its cage.
Ms Gruhn had her neck broken in the attack and was airlifted to hospital.
"It all happened so fast," she told German newspaper Bild.
"He suddenly appeared behind me and grabbed me.
"I thought any minute it's over ... instinctively, I played dead."
But the animal — which had slipped through an open gate — picked up Ms Gruhn with its jaws and carried her out of its cage.
Her neck reportedly made an popping noise as Karim's fangs broke her cervical vertebrae.
"I was fully conscious the whole time ... so I tried to remain calm," Ms Gruhn said.
Colleagues at the zoo in the eastern German town of Arschersleben managed to distract the tiger long enough for him to let go of Ms Gruhn, before driving him back into his cage.
The Aschersleben zoo is home to a pair of Bengali white tigers — Karim the male and a female Kiara who gave birth to a litter of cubs earlier this year.
Last year Karim attacked and killed a Siberian tiger that strayed into its enclosure after a zookeeper mistakenly opened the access gate.
Ms Gruhn said that if she fully recovers she would like to continue work at the zoo.
"This is and remains my dream job," she said.