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NZ zookeeper mauled to death by rare white tiger

AN animal keeper was mauled to death today by a rare white tiger at a wildlife park in New Zealand while visitors watched in horror, police said.

The tiger was killed because it wouldn't release the keeper's body.

The keeper was attacked after he and a colleague entered the cage at Zion Wildlife Park on New Zealand's North Island to clean it, police spokeswoman Sarah Kennett said.

"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," Kennett said in a statement.

The tiger was killed to remove the body, police inspector Paul Dimmery told National Radio.

The man died at the scene before help could reach him, with serious injuries to his abdomen and lower legs.

There was "nothing to indicate why it attacked - but the fact is they're wild animals," Dimmery added.

Park spokeswoman Sarah Reed said staff were "devastated."

Victim Support staff were called to the scene to help distressed staff and visitors, including eight foreign tourists who watched the attack, Kennett said. Their nationalities were not known.

The park, located near the northern city of Whangarei, has 42 rare lions and tigers in large wire-cage enclosures that include trees and grassy areas.

In February, park employee Demetri Price required surgery after a white tiger attacked him. Scottish teenager Lisa Baxter was left scarred last year after she put her hands through a hole in the fence and a white lion bit her.


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