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March 8, 2010

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Zoo puts killer tiger in isolation

SHANGHAI Zoo temporarily closed its Bengal tiger area yesterday while investigations continued into the death of a keeper on Saturday.

Four Bengal tigers live in the area, including the male tiger which bit his keeper on the neck and dragged him around his cage as visitors looked on in horror.

The animal is being kept isolated but zoo officials said that would not be permanent.

"Like similar cases at home and abroad, the animal will not receive a life sentence," said Pan Xiuwen, an official with the zoo.

"We'll consider reintroducing him to the public again when the time is right."

Pan said the tiger was behaving normally after the incident in which he attacked 53-year-old Li Zhonglin.

The tiger, which was not fed on Friday, managed to escape through the improperly secured door and attacked the keeper.

Zoo officials say it is normal practice not to feed the tigers on Fridays to help aid their digestive systems.

In the wild it would not be unusual for tigers to go without food for a day.

"We expect to encourage the tigers' ability to hunt food by imitating the wild environment," Pan said. "Usually tigers in the wild are not able to find food every day."

Li had been working as a keeper for 31 years. He'd taken care of the tiger which killed him since it was born in November 1999.

Li's fellow keepers said that although carnivores raised at the zoo were not as fierce as wild ones, they could still attack humans under certain circumstances, such as if they felt threatened.

Officials said the amount of compensation for Li's family was under discussion.

Although the tragedy, they said, was the result of Li's failing to properly secure the door to the tiger's lair when he was cleaning the parade area, that would not affect the amount.


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