'Freak accident' led to female keeper being killed by tiger, Hamerton Zoo says

Cambridgeshire Police say a tiger entered an enclosure while the staff member was inside

Visitors to the attraction near Huntingdon were evacuated after reports of a ‘serious incident’
Visitors to the attraction near Huntingdon were evacuated after reports of a ‘serious incident’

A "freak accident" was to blame for the death of keeper who was killed by a tiger at Hamerton Zoo Park in Cambridgeshire.

"Our thoughts and sympathies are with our colleagues, friends and families at this dreadful time", the zoo said in a statement.

Visitors to the attraction near Huntingdon were evacuated on Monday morning after reports of a “serious incident”.

Cambridgeshire Police said in a statement that a tiger entered an enclosure while the keeper was inside.

The force added that the tiger involved was believed to be fine, as Twitter users expressed fears over what would happen to the animal.

“Sadly the female zookeeper died at the scene,” it said. “At no time did the animal escape from the enclosure. No animals escaped the enclosure, no children were injured."

Eyewitness Jeff Knott, from Cambridgeshire, said staff had been "a real credit" to the zoo during the evacuation.

The 32-year-old told the Press Association: "We had been in the zoo since about 10.30am and heard/seen nothing until asked to leave about 11.45am. Staff were very calm and professional. All visitors around us were leaving in a very calm manner - no running, shouting or anything similar."

Initial reports on social media said a tiger had escaped from its enclosure; claims that were quickly refuted by police, who tried to reassure the public that no animals were on the loose.

An air ambulance and two rapid response vehicles were dispatched to the 25-acre site.

Antonia Brickell from Magpas air ambulance denied reports that visitors had been "running in terror", adding: "The visitors were safely evicted from the zoo.

Hamerton Zoo Park houses a variety of exotic animals, including Malaysian tigers, cheetahs and lemurs.

The zoo issued a warning in December last year after a visitor to the park scaled a metal fence barrier.

Four years ago, Sarah McClay died after being mauled by a Sumatran tiger at South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria.

The zoo was fined £255,000 at Preston Crown Court in June last year following the 24-year-old employee's death in May 2013.

It received an additional £42,500 fine after it also pleaded guilty to other health and safety law breaches when a zookeeper fell from a ladder while preparing to feed big cats in July 2014.

Last October ZSL London Zoo was put on lockdown after Kumbuka the silverback gorilla managed to exit his enclosure through two security doors that had been left unlocked by a keeper.

Armed police were called to the central London attraction and visitors were evacuated when the alarm was raised following the ape's bid for freedom shortly after 5pm on October 13.

It follows the death of endangered gorilla Harambe, who was widely mourned after he was shot when a three-year-old boy fell into his Cincinnati Zoo enclosure in May 2016.

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