Sumatran tiger kills woman at zoo in New Zealand - prompting fears cat will be destroyed

The female zookeeper has not yet been named

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The Independent Online

A zookeeper has been killed in an attack by a Sumatran tiger at Hamilton Zoo, south of Auckland in New Zealand.

The zoo confirmed that the death, the first fatal incident in its history, occurred during visiting hours.

Emergency Services were called just after 11am local time to treat a woman reported to have been critically injured by the adult, male  tiger, but found her dead at the scene.

Officials said they were "deeply saddened" by the tragedy, which has shocked the "close-knit" staff community.

The zoo said it was now focusing on supporting its staff and investigating what happened.

The woman, whose name will not be released until police have informed her family, was reportedly attacked while cleaning animal's enclosure.

The animal responsible for the death is called Oz, one of five Sumatran tigers at Hamilton Zoo.

The zoo has said it will remain closed until Thursday, during which time the site of the attack will be blessed.

A video of Oz, taken in 2014, shows him lifting 80kg of weight out of the water in his enclosure.

Officials said they could not rule out Oz having to be eventually euthanised as a result of the attack, but said that for the meantime he and the other tigers were "securely contained" in their enclosures.

Visitors have sent dozens of messages of condolences to the zoo's Facebook page.

Many commenters said they do not want Oz to be destroyed, writing: "Please don't kill the tiger for being a tiger."

The other tigers were in a separate enclosure at the time, zoo visitor manager Dave Smart said.

No visitors were near the enclosure at the time of the attack although some have reported seeing the tigers shortly before the zoo was evacuated.

The zoo has five Sumatran tigers Oz, Mencari, Sali and her 11-month-old cubs Kembali and Kirana who were born in November 2014.

Oz was brought to Hamilton Zoo in 2014 as part of the Global Species Management plan for Sumatran tigers, and has since fathered the two cubs.