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December 18, 2013

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Tiger kills keeper at Shanghai Zoo

A KEEPER at Shanghai Zoo was bitten to death by a South China tiger while cleaning out cages yesterday morning.

The man, surnamed Zhou, 57, was killed in the breeding area, an area closed to the public near the zoo in Changning District.

The tiger, Yingying, is a 9-year-old male that has sired tiger cubs. It has been kept in isolation since the incident.

Yingying was born in the zoo and will not be put to death as a result of the incident, zoo officials said.

It is believed Zhou may have forgotten to close a gate when he entered the area. The doors of three tiger cages were open when Zhou was found lying in a pool of blood, said Tu Rongxiu, director of the zoo’s feeding division.

Zhou had taken care of the tiger for about three to four years, Tu said.

He was killed around 10:30am before the tiger was fed, but the zoo denied the tiger had attacked because it was hungry.

“It is not likely the tiger killed Zhou because of hunger, as tigers in the zoo are fed once every day except Friday to train tigers’ ability to hunt food by imitating the wild environment,” Tu said.

The tiger did not behave abnormally before the incident and had not hurt anyone in the past.

Zhou had gone into the area to clean the cages in the morning, but his body was not found until lunchtime.

He had worked at the zoo for about 30 years and was due to retire in three years. Zhou was proud of his experience in breeding animals, Tu said.

The South China tiger is a subspecies native to the provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan and Jiangxi and has been classified as critically endangered since 1996.

An investigation into the incident is underway, and the zoo has been ordered to enhance zookeepers’s safety education, the Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau said.

It was the second time a keeper had been killed at the zoo.

On March 6, 2010, a 53-year-old keeper died after a Bengal tiger bit him in the neck and dragged him around a cage in front of more than 10 horrified visitors.

He was about to clean its cage and feed the animal when it suddenly jumped out and bit him.

It was widely speculated that the tiger was hungry as it had not yet been fed that day.

March 6 has since been designated safety education day at the zoo.

The zoo also installed video surveillance cameras at dangerous animal enclosures, but the area where yesterday’s incident took place was not fitted with cameras as it was due to be dismantled and rebuilt.

In 1999, a 41-year-old tour bus driver died after he had got out of his bus in the tigers’ zone at Shanghai Wildlife Park to check why the bus had broken down.

He was attacked and killed by three Siberian tigers.



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