Tiger in unlocked cage kills Shanghai zookeeper
Source: Global Times
[01:12 March 08 2010]
By Jiang Wanjuan in Beijing and Zhou Ping in Shanghai
An animal keeper was killed by a Bengal tiger at the Shanghai Zoo Saturday morning after the zookeeper forgot to lock the tiger's cage.
Li Zhonglin, 53, was mauled by the tiger while cleaning outside the cage with its door unlocked, according to the Shanghai Municipal Management Bureau of Greening and City Appearance.
A visitor told the Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News that he saw the tiger suddenly jump on the keeper and snap his neck before the man could cry out for help.
"The zoo's tigers seemed very cranky so they must have been hungry for several days," he said.
Visitors who witnessed the incident through a glass window of the exhibition room were not exposed to danger.
Zoo patrollers called veterinarians with narcotic rifles to the scene after being alerted by visitors. The tiger was subdued within 10 minutes.
Medical personnel confirmed Li's death at the scene.
There is no emergency alarm button at the zoo, according to the bureau's statement.
The 11-year-old male tiger has lived at the zoo for over a year. The big cat has been put in isolation from the other three tigers for further observation, a zoo official told the Global Times Sunday, requesting that his name be withheld.
"The tiger will return to the cage only after his behavior is considered normal," the official said.
Many people believe the tiger attacked its keeper out of hunger. A zoo cleaner who asked for anonymity told the Global Times that the tigers are usually hungry on Saturdays because the zoo doesn't feed them on Fridays. But he did not elaborate.
"Tigers only attack people when hungry, in estrus or under attack," Hang Huan, master of biology, told the Global Times. "Most likely, the tiger was hungry."
The tragedy resulted when the zookeeper let down his guard, according to Shanghai Zoo officials.
Under normal procedure, animal keepers are supposed to lock the tigers in their cage at the rear of the exhibition room before they clean and prepare breakfast for the wild cats in front, but Li forgot to lock the door between them.
Li's co-workers were in shock and disbelief over the tragedy.
Li was a veteran animal keeper with over 31 years of experience. He had been the caretaker for the Bengal tiger since it arrived at the zoo.
"We've sent consolations to Li's family and now we are considering compensation," said the anonymous official with the Shanghai Zoo. She told the Global Times that Li's family is trying to cope with his death and has not demanded compensation.
Police blocked off the tiger enclosure, but other sections of the zoo were open as usual.