The Florida zookeeper known as the "Tiger Whisper" broke the zoo's rules when she entered the tiger enclosure last week before a tiger mauled and killed her, according to a statement released by the zoo on Friday.
Palm Beach Zoo employee Stacey Konwiser, 38, was killed on April 15 after a rare Malayan tiger attacked her inside its enclosure. Konwiser was inside the Malayan tigers’ enclosure performing last-minute preparations before she was set to administer a talk to the zoo’s guests later that afternoon. But shortly before 1:45 p.m., one of the male tigers lashed out and began mauling Konwiser as the zoo was placed in lockdown mode. Konwiser was later airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach where she was pronounced dead.
On Friday, zoo officials stated that Konwiser broke the zoo's rules the afternoon that she was killed.
"The facts as we know them confirm that one of our most senior and experienced animal experts who was highly qualified and a leader in her zookeeper position, secured a portion of the tiger night house with a tiger in it, and then entered that same portion of the night house after it was clearly designated as accessible by a tiger," the Palm Beach Zoo's Facebook page stated. "Under Palm Beach Zoo policy, zoo employees are never allowed to enter a tiger enclosure to which the animal has access."
The zoo's website now includes a statement posted in its FAQ section addressing Konwiser's death and other related safety concers.
"There is absolutely no mystery as to how Stacey Konwiser died," the tiger FAQ section reads. "The question is: why did a deeply talented and experienced Zookeeper, fully aware of the presence of a tiger and knowledgeable of our safety protocols, enter a tiger enclosure into which a tiger had access?"
Andrew Aiken, the zoo's president and chief executive, also stated that multiple investigations into the circumstances surrounding Konwiser's death are underway, according to CNN. Although the tiger enclosure does contain surveillance cameras, Aiken said that they only are activated when the zoo is housing newborn tiger cubs, according to the Palm Beach Post.
The male Malayan tiger, whose name has not been publicly released, has received death threats since the accident occurred, according to CNN.
"Identifying the animal only serves to stigmatize and potentially places the tiger in harm's way," the zoo in statement posted to its Facebook page.
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