Stacey Konwiser, a zookeeper known in professional circles as the “Tiger Whisperer was mauled to death last Friday by a tiger. Konwiser had been in charge of the Palm Beach Zoo’s four Malayan tigers over the past three years. But according to some, her death could have been avoided by better safety standards for big cats.
"As long as employees are allowed to work in dangerously close proximity to tigers, elephants, and other dangerous animals, a significant risk of serious injury or death persists," said the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). In a prepared statement they also said that “deaths and serious injury are preventable, and safety regulations are an important piece of keeping zookeepers and employees who have close contact with dangerous animals safe."
The ALDF requested that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conduct an investigation into conditions at the Zoo and "impose the maximum penalty" if any irregularities are found. The ALDF said its’ actions are necessary to “prevent and head off future fatalities.”
Konwiser was preparing the four tigers for her daily educational presentation -"Tiger Talk," when the attack occurred. They were together inside a dedicated enclosure not visible to patrons. She was rushed to a local hospital immediately where she later died from her injuries.
“She was mauled very badly; big cats like tigers are incredibly strong and dangerous and can kill a human in seconds,” said a spokesperson at the hospital and added, “we did everything we could to save her life but the injuries were quite severe.
The zoo understands the tiger was acting on its natural instincts, but as of this report it is unclear whether the tiger will be euthanized. The ALDF claims there have been 24 human fatalities caused by big-cats and 265 injuries recorded since 1990. Consequently, 128 of these captive cats have been put down as a result. Her co-workers were adamant telling reporters that “Stacey loved those tigers and there’s just no way she would have wanted them killed for what happened to her, she knew the risks and accepted them every day.”
"This is an endangered species and Stacey understood the dangers that come with this job," said zoo spokesperson Naki Carter, “She understood that every single day she was putting her life at risk to save the lives of others, specifically Malayan tigers. She dedicated her life and she understood what came with that."