A tiger that killed a keeper at a Cambridgeshire zoo will not be put down, it has been confirmed.
The decision not to destroy the animal has been ‘fully supported’ by the family of victim Rosa King, 33, who died following the incident at Hamerton Zoo Park.
An investigation is ongoing into the 34-year-old’s death, which was described as a ‘freak accident’ by the zoo.
The park said on Monday: ‘After extensive consultation with the staff at the zoo, we have decided not to put down the tiger.
‘This decision has been fully supported by Rosa’s family.
Hamerton Zoo’s carnivore keeper Rosa King is pictured with two of the Cambridgeshire wildlife park’s four tigers on World Tiger Day last year. Her parents say they ‘fully support’ the decision not to destroy the tiger that killed Rosa
‘We are awaiting the findings of the investigation to fully understand what happened before we take further action on this matter.
‘If we receive regulatory or professional guidance to the contrary, we will review our position.’
Cambridgeshire Constabulary were called to Hamerton Zoo Park at 11.15am on May 29 to reports of a serious incident.
The parents of zookeeper Rosa King, 33 (pictured) have ‘fully supported’ the park’s decision not to destroy the tiger that mauled her to death
Witnesses described hearing ‘blood-curdling screams’ as the tiger attacked Miss King, while her colleagues frantically tried to lure it away with chunks of meat.
It was suggested that Rosa – described as the zoo’s ‘shining light’ – may have been coming to the aid of a fellow keeper before she was killed.
The zookeeper’s parents described how their ‘beloved’ daughter could see the ‘soul’ in animals and ‘lived and breathed’ her job.
The couple added that Rosa – who had worked as the zoo for 14 years – was following her ‘vocation’ by working at the zoo as a carnivore keeper.
In a statement, they said: ‘Rosa was a dedicated professional when it came to her work.
‘She lived and breathed a vocation that meant the world to her, living her dream.
‘She had a care and understanding of her animals that was a joy and privilege to behold.’
The couple said their daughter – who was also ‘loved and admired’ by a younger brother – had shown a passion for animals from the age of two when she first sat on a horse.
They added that her ‘whole attitude to the animal kingdom’ was summed up by the words of Anthony Douglas Williams, who famously said: ‘When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.’
‘After that, her life was always going to be about animals,’ they added. ‘She lived her life to the full and was a very caring, generous person.
‘She would stand up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves including the animals and campaigned and raised money for animal charities.
‘Rosa completed a skydive in 2014 to raise money for Animal Asia and then travelled to China to visit the sanctuary for Moon bears to see for herself the work they do, and just recently returned from a visit to a Sun bear rehabilitation centre in Borneo.’
Mr King, 56, and his 54-year-old wife also thanked the public for the ‘abundance of love and sympathy’ which they had received since Rosa’s death.
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One of the police forensic officers inspecting the cage at Hamerton Zoo, Cambridgeshire, was visibly upset and had to be comforted by a colleague
A tiger is pictured in an enclosure at the zoo, close to where Rosa was killed on Monday May 29
Police are interviewing members of staff to find out what happened. Chris Swales, second right, is pictured being taken away by police at the zoo. No arrests have been made
Emergency services initially described Rosa’s death as ‘non suspicious’, but it has since emerged the owners were warned about safety failings several times over the past decade.
Inspectors had highlighted problems with ageing safety barriers and a damaged fence, and ordered the zoo to amend its escape protocols as long ago as 2007.
Following a further inspection six years later, the park had still failed to implement suggested changes, including overhauling risk assessments and ‘safe working practices’.
The authors again implored the owners to conduct a ‘wholesale review of the risk assessments’.
It is unclear if Hamerton or its owner Andrew Swales made attempts to abide by the conditions.
Ms King is understood to have been savaged in the Tiger Falls enclosure, which opened last year for its two rare Malayan tigers Cicip and Sahaja.
It is believed the barrier separating the enclosure and the tiger pen experienced a malfunction or was accidentally left unlocked when Miss King was cleaning.
Police and council officers are pictured at Hamerton Zoo, Cambridgeshire, where an investigation is now taking place
The park owner’s son, Chris Swales, was questioned by police in a bid to find out what happened.
The 30-year-old son of Hamerton’s owner, Andrew Swales, was taken away in an unmarked police car by detectives for questioning. Two other workers were seen helping police with their enquiries on site.
It is understood that all employees will be interviewed but have the choice whether to do so at the zoo or in a dedicated witness suite.
There is no suggestion any of the people questioned were responsible for Ms King’s death and no arrests have been made.
A police officer was seen wheeling a large case away from the zoo to his van after the tragedy
Officers appeared to remove evidence from the scene of the incident for processing
The owners of a zoo where a tiger mauled a female keeper to death were warned about safety failings several times over the past decade. Police have now said they are investigating
On June 1 teams continued to comb the zoo for clues as to how a tiger managed to get into the enclosure where Rosa was working.
A blonde-haired woman could be seen standing in the area where Rosa was killed, looking emotional.
The zoo said it was ‘co-operating fully’ with the joint investigation by police and the council.
A spokesman said: ‘Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with Rosa’s family and friends, many of whom worked alongside her at the zoo.
‘We are cooperating fully with the investigation that is currently being conducted by Huntingdonshire District Council environmental health department.’
Cambridgeshire police said the tiger has not been harmed, adding: ‘We are jointly investigating with the council.’
Hamerton Zoo, where carnivore keeper Rosa King was killed yesterday in a ‘freak accident’, was criticised by inspectors following a visit in 2013 (shown)
A report raised concerns that the park, in Cambridgeshire, did not have escape protocols in place for specific animal
Chief Inspector Donna Wass added: ‘While there are no suspicious circumstances, the death of the zookeeper is still unexplained and the police have a duty to report to the coroner, which is why the police investigation is ongoing.
‘Huntingdon District Council have a responsibility for health and safety and licencing at the zoo, and are investigating these aspects.
‘This is why both parties are still involved and will work together on a joint investigation.’
The case has been referred to the Cambridgeshire coroner’s office. A spokesman said an inquest will be opened next week.
Following her death, it emerged that Rosa told a friend how she feared another of her animals saw her as ‘his next meal’.
Friend Tracey Eyre, 48, said Miss King was always vigilant as she knew she was dealing with ‘dangerous, wild animals’.
The mother of Miss King, pictured with one of the zoo’s tigers, said she ‘loved the job’ and ‘would not have done anything else’
Ms Eyre told the Daily Mirror: ‘She said [another tiger] Blizzard often looked at her as if to say ‘you’re going to be my next meal if I get the chance’.
‘She adored those tigers, they were like family to her, they were her little babies.’
Earlier this week, zoo inspection reports, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, revealed how Hamerton was in the spotlight for a catalogue of management issues
In 2012, inspectors ordered the renewal of ageing safety barriers and a damaged perimeter fence within three months, and said the escape protocol ‘should be amended’ to categorise animals of varying risks.
Zoos are regulated by local authorities across the UK, with no central government database of facilities. Government-appointed vets conduct inspections every three to four years, with annual follow-ups supposed to be undertaken by the local authority.
However, records indicate Hamerton has not been inspected in any capacity since August 2015.
Footage emerged of Miss King telling a TV interviewer how she believed keeping captive animals in zoos was not cruel
In the footage, Miss King spoke of how the zoo did ‘a lot of work for conservation, a lot of breeding to try and save the species’
During that visit, no mention was made of security issues outlined in previous reports. The inspectors reported: ‘[Animal] escapes have been notified when necessary.’ Representatives of Hamerton failed to respond to requests for comment last night.
TIGERS AT THE ZOO
A pair of Malaysian tigers, eight-year-old male ‘Cicip’ and four-year-old ‘Sahaja’ arrived at the zoo in September 2015. They are the only ones to ever be seen in the UK, and only a handful of zoos in Europe currently keep this rare cat.
The park currently has two Bengal tigers. A male named ‘Blizzard’ and his mate ‘Lady Belle’ arrived at the facility in 2001 from a circus in Belgium. Blizzard died in March this year. In a statement on March 6, the zoo said: ‘Blizzard had taken a turn for the worst over the last few weeks and was not responding to medical treatment, so the decision was taken to put him to sleep.’
Ladybelle died in June 2016. In a statement on June 10, the zoo said: ‘Lady’s health had been deteriorating over the last few months, and was receiving daily medical care from her keepers and vets. Unfortunately in the last week she deteriorated rapidly and yesterday the decision was made to put her to sleep.’
Another pair of 15-month-old white Bengal tigers arrived from Germany in 2014, called ‘Shiva’ and ‘Mohan’.
Chris Draper, of wildlife charity Born Free, said: ‘From these reports we have no way of determining whether these conditions were ever met. This zoo has clearly not been meeting some safety standards for many years. It is still unclear what happened to Rosa King but this is very worrying.’
Following her death, tributes poured in for the zookeeper.
Steven Eyre, a friend of Miss King’s, said: ‘She was dedicated to her job completely and was aware of all the risks. She was very meticulous about everything that she did … We’re all at a bit of a loss to understand what happened.’
Former zoo volunteer Zach Vaughan added: ‘Rosa took her job very seriously and was always safe. She wouldn’t have gone into the tiger enclosure for no reason.’
Miss King’s friend, wildlife photographer Garry Chisholm, added: ‘I have lost a very dear friend who loved the animals in her care very much.
‘I would like to say more but I am struggling to take in this news at the moment.’
Writing on Facebook, Mr Chisholm added: ‘I was deeply saddened to hear of the tragic events at Hamerton yesterday which resulted in the death of a good friend of mine.
‘Rosa was a follower of this page and I would like to make the following tribute statement in her memory:
‘Rosa wasn’t just a keeper at Hamerton Zoo – she WAS Hamerton Zoo.
Rosa is pictured right alongside a cheetah and conservation stalwart Sir David Attenborough
‘She was the absolute central point of it, the focal point of it. She was the shining light of it. It revolved around her.
‘Her passion for the animals in her care was exceptional though her favourites were undoubtedly the cheetahs which she would refer to as her pride and joy.
‘Rosa would raise money for cheetah conservation by actively taking part in parachute jumps and I was delighted when she approached me asking if she could use one of my pictures to promote her money raising campaign.
‘I feel privileged to have known Rosa and been able to call her a friend. She will be greatly missed, not just by me but by everyone who came to know her.
‘The only consolation I can take from today’s tragic events is that Rosa is now reunited with her beloved Ares the cheetah and Blizzard and Ladybelle her beloved tigers.’
Philip Caso, a 20-year-old zoology student from Peterborough, got to know Ms King through doing work experience at the zoo each summer and commended her conservation efforts.
Witness Pete Davis said he believed the young keeper (shown) was attacked after rushing to help a colleague in the tiger enclosure
In a tribute on Facebook he wrote: ‘I’m literally devastated to hear that one of the most inspirational women I knew died at Hamerton Zoo.
‘Rosa loved and respected those animals to the point where each and every one was like a child to her.
‘Her passion for her job has really inspired me and I was just glad I got the chance to know her. Thinking of all the other keepers.’
Photographer Hollie Gordon, who said she became friends with Ms King through visits to the zoo, said: ‘Her passion for the animals, the zoo and conservation really shone through. She loved them all!’
The 24-year-old, from Blackpool, added: ‘I am in shock by what has happened.
‘Terribly upset and can’t quite believe I won’t see her again with a big smile on her face and working with her beloved cats.’
Mr Neve, 46, took part in a one-to-one tiger-feeding experience less than two months ago, where he met Miss King.
A spokesman for the zoo (pictured) last night confirmed a worker had died, saying staff were ‘too distressed’ to talk to the media
He said: ‘I’m actually in shock. I met Rosa seven weeks ago when I went to feed the tigers.
‘Getting to feed the tigers was fantastic. The day out was given to me as a Christmas present; I went down with the whole family and it was just a really, really good day.’
He added: ‘She had a real passion for the cats and had obviously been there since they had arrived at the zoo. Her knowledge about tigers was second to none.
‘The experience was only supposed to last around 45 minutes, but I was there for two hours just talking to her about the tigers – it was a real pleasure.’
Ms King was a self-confessed fan of big cats, and also raised funds three years ago for a charity helping bears.
Linking to a JustGiving page, through which she raised more than £900, she told donors she was going to skydive for Animals Asia.
She wrote on Facebook: ‘Those of you who know me and have spoken to me around the Zoo will be aware of my love of big cats, but probably aren’t as aware of my love of bears!
‘I am a big supporter of the animal charity Animals Asia, who rescue and care for bears effected (sic) by the pet trade and in particular the cruel bear bile trade.’
A photograph allegedly taken next to the tiger enclosure minutes before the attack took place
This hastily-prepared sign was put up to let customers know that the park was closed for the rest of the day
Police and the air ambulance said they were called to a ‘very serious incident’ this morning, before a keeper’s death was confirmed
An air ambulance landed as visitors were being evacuated from the zoo in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, this afternoon
The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums released a short statement in regards to the incident via its website.
It said: ‘The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) is extremely saddened to hear that a zoo keeper has been killed by a tiger at Hamerton Zoo in Cambridgeshire.
WHEN CHEETAH WENT ON THE RUN
Hamerton Zoo was at the centre of a scare nine years ago when a cheetah escaped.
The three-year-old animal, called Akea, ended up in the garden of a neighbouring home and was discovered by a nine-year-old boy playing on his bicycle.
Akea had scaled an 8ft fence surrounding his outdoor enclosure after a solar-powered electric fencing unit broke down.
It was the first time a non-domesticated animal had escaped since the zoo was opened in 1990.
Keepers said Akea had posed no danger to the public because he was tame after being hand-reared. One added: ‘When I go in to see him he sits on me and we have cuddles. He’s just like a big dog.’
‘Whilst the zoo is not a member of BIAZA, the death of a keeper affects the whole zoo community and our thoughts are with the keeper’s family, friends and colleagues at this time.’
Hamerton Zoo Park opened in June 1990 and covers 25 acres. It includes enclosures for Malaysian tigers, Bengal tigers, cheetahs, wolves, corsac foxes and kangaroos, as well as a variety of birds, reptiles and domestic animals.
In 2013, Sarah McClay, 24, from Glasgow, was mauled to death by a Sumatran tiger at South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Cumbria.
The zoo was fined £255,000 after a faulty gate allowed a tiger called Padang to escape its den and pounce as she did her rounds.
The zoo went on to be branded the worst in Britain after nearly 500 animals died amid ‘deplorable’ welfare standards.
Three zookeepers were killed by big cats at zoos run by the late John Aspinall, who believed they should be allowed close access to bond with the animals.
In 1980, he was forced to shoot two Siberian tigers that killed keepers Brian Stocks and Bob Wilson within weeks of each other at Howletts, near Canterbury.
In 1994, Trevor Smith, 32, head keeper at the same zoo, was killed by a tiger.
British keeper who was mauled to death after a ‘door was left open’
Sarah McClay died when she was mauled by a Sumatran tiger at South Lakes Wild Animal Park in 2013
Sarah McClay died when she was mauled by a Sumatran tiger at South Lakes Wild Animal Park, in Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria in 2013.
The 24-year-old was pounced on in the keeper’s corridor of the tiger house before she was dragged by the back of the neck into a den and then to an outside enclosure.
The animal was supposed to never have access to the corridor but male tiger Padang walked straight through a door to where Miss McClay, from Barrow-in-Furness, was as she carried out her cleaning and feeding duties in the house.
An inquest jury in Kendal ruled in a narrative verdict that Padang got to Miss McClay by entering two open internal sliding gates within the house and then an open door that led on to the corridor.
Systems were in place at the park in Dalton-in-Furness in to ensure that animals and keepers remained apart at all times through indoor and outdoor compartments connected by lockable self-closing doors.
But when staff members rushed in after the attack in May 2013 they found the door to one of the tigers’ dens ajar and not locked.
A tiger kept is pictured inside an enclosure at South Lakes Wild Animal Park