White tiger fatally mauls its keeper at New Zealand park

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The Independent Online

An animal keeper was mauled to death by a rare white tiger at a New Zealand wildlife park while visitors watched in horror.

The animal – one of only 120 white tigers in the world – was killed because it would not release the keeper's body.

The keeper, Dalu Mncube was the second person to be attacked this year by one of the park's white tigers – he had helped rescue another employee mauled in February.

Mr Mncube was attacked yesterday after he and a colleague entered the cage at Zion Wildlife Park on New Zealand's North Island to clean it.

There was nothing to indicate why the white tiger attacked.

Mr Mncube, who was a South African national, died at the scene before help could reach him, with serious injuries to his abdomen and lower legs.

"Despite the best efforts of the second keeper and a rapid response from other wildlife park staff, the tiger would not let the park worker go," police said. The park's manager, Glen Holland, who was not at the park at the time, said Mr Mncube was a very experienced keeper and "fantastic with the cats".

A spokeswoman for the park, Sarah Reed, said staff were "devastated" by the attack.

Care-workers were called to the scene to help distressed staff and visitors, including eight foreign tourists who witnessed the attack. Their nationalities were not known.

In February, another of the park's employees, Demetri Price, required surgery after he was also attacked by a white tiger.

Mr Price, who no longer works at the park, told TVOne's Close Up program that his colleague, Mr Mncube, had "got the tiger off me" after he was bitten in the knee. He said that Mr Mncube "had a great ability with animals".

The park, which is near the northern city of Whangarei, has 42 rare lions and tigers – four of which are white tigers – which are kept in large wire-cage enclosures that include trees and grassy areas.

In another incident last year, Scottish teenager Lisa Baxter was left scarred after she put her hands through a hole in the fence and a white lion bit her.