A 38-year-old zookeeper was killed on Friday while performing routine tasks inside the Malayan tigers’ habitat at the Palm Beach Zoo, a rep for the zoo confirmed in a press conference Friday.
According to a statement on the zoo’s website, Stacey Konwiser – the zoo’s lead keeper – suffered a “severe bite,” around 2 p.m. Following the incident she was taken by air to St. Mary’s Medical Center where she died about an hour later.
Konwiser was attacked by a male tiger at the back of the exhibit in the tiger night house, while preparing for one of the zoo’s daily “Tiger Talk” shows, described on the website as one of their various “keeper talks and informative feeding & enrichment encounters.”
Although the area where the incident occurred is beyond public access, the zoo evacuated guests after a code red was issued.
The zoo then went on lockdown and will remain closed through the weekend.
Public relations manager Naki Carter told NBC‘s local affiliate WPTV that this is the first time someone has died from an attack at the zoo and that no guests were injured or at risk of injury as the animal was never on the loose.
“There was nothing out of the norm as far as what she was conducting at that time. A tragic incident occurred,” Carter added. “This was her specialty, she loved tigers. These keepers don’t get into this business without the love for these animals and understanding the danger that’s involved.”