A Topeka, Kan., zookeeper who was attacked by a Sumatran tiger on Saturday is recovering in the hospital and the endangered animal will not be killed, the zoo said.
The female zookeeper was seriously injured but was released from an intensive care unit on Monday, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. "On behalf of the family, thanks to everyone that has reached out with prayers and signs of hope," Topeka Zoo director Brendan Wiley said Sunday.
As part of its investigation, Wiley said the zoo is interviewing witnesses and other zoo employees, but the full picture won't emerge until the zookeeper can describe what she experienced firsthand.
Sanjiv, a 7-year-old Sumatran tiger, attacked the zookeeper Saturday in its outdoor habitat. A zookeeper enters the habitat to "clean, maintain, put out enrichment items" daily, but the tiger is supposed to be locked inside at the time.
The zookeeper suffered "soft tissue" injuries to the back of her head, neck, back and arm, with arteries and bones largely spared. She was still conscious and talking when she left the zoo for the hospital, Wiley said, adding he was impressed with zoo employees' quick reaction when the emergency call went out. The tiger was back indoors within 10 minutes.
He stressed that Sanjiv will not be killed. "Yesterday with a human in his face, he did what a tiger would do," Wiley said.
Sumatran tigers, found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, are an endangered species. It's believed that there are only 400 to 500 left in the wild. There are 78 in North America zoos and around 80 in European zoos with fewer than 800 left worldwide.
Sanjiv is "an extremely valuable specimen of that species," Wiley said.
New York Daily News