Tiger imported from Israel kills keeper in NZ

September 21, 2015 by Henry Benjamin
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A Sumatran tiger imported into New Zealand from Israel last year has killed its keeper.

Sam Kudewah with OZ

Sam Kudewah with OZ

The animal was sent to Hamilton Zoo as part of the Global Species Management plan for Sumatran tigers…an endangered species.

The 11-year-old tiger named Oz, Hebrew for strength or might, killed his keeper Samantha Kudeweh, an animal curator who had 20 years experience. When is the third keeper to be killed at the zoo in the past xix years.

The zoo has issued the following statement:

“Hamilton Zoo’s male Sumatran tiger Oz will not be euthanized following the death of Zoo Curator Samantha Kudeweh yesterday .

Lance Vervoort, Hamilton City Council’s General Manager Community, says although Samantha’s death is a tragedy for the wider zoo family and international wildlife conservation community, senior zoo staff have ruled out euthanizing Oz.

“We’re aware there is a lot of interest and speculation around how we manage Oz now, and I want to assure the public and zoo supporters that he will not be put down,” Mr Vervoort says.

“Although there is an inherent risk for zoo professionals who manage big cats like Oz, there is no wider ongoing risk. There is no reason for us to put Oz down.”

Mr Vervoort says the decision not to euthanize Oz was made by zoo senior staff today. They have advised the Ministry for Primary Industries – the Government agency responsible for overseeing zoo and wildlife park operations in New Zealand – of this.

“This is our call, and the decision on Oz rested solely with us,” Mr Vervoort says. “Oz is a significant animal for his species. He is the father of our two cubs, and he is vital to the ongoing breeding programme to conserve this rare species.”

Mr Vervoort says the widely held view among zoo professionals was that Oz’s attack on Samantha was in line with his natural instincts.

Hamilton Zoo will reopen on Thursday, and Mr Vervoort says some of the zoo’s five Sumatran tigers will be on display. No decision has been made on whether visitors to the zoo will be able to see Oz.

Mr Vervoort says the zoo’s popular Tiger Talks, Eye 2 Eye and Face 2 Face encounters for all species have been suspended until further notice to allow zoo staff time and space to grieve for their friend and colleague. Those aspects of the zoo experience will be assessed on a weekly basis.

Mr Vervoort says Hamilton Zoo will not be commenting on tiger management procedures until all investigations have been completed.

“We’re firmly focussed on supporting Samantha’s family, the zoo team, and make sure we conduct thorough and complete investigations into this tragic incident.”

Mr Vervoort says Hamilton Zoo’s phone lines and social media channels had been inundated with messages of support from around the country following Samantha’s death.

“Our team is still coming to terms with what has happened, and the show of support from our community and the zoo industry worldwide has been very touching and hugely appreciated.”

Mr Vervoort says Samantha’s family has asked for ongoing privacy and time to grieve while arrangements are made for a service to celebrate her life.”


2 Responses to “Tiger imported from Israel kills keeper in NZ”
  1. Ana M Cattini says:

    Thank you for sparing the life of this beautiful animal.
    I feel deeply for the lost of a life what we are all god’s creatures. A person kills another one because they have no respect for human life. But this is an animal and their instinct is to survive. It’s not his fault. My prayers are with the family of the lady who lost her life it should have never happened. I am sorry it did.
    OZ needs to be handle with respect and care so he knows he is not in any danger and he will feel not threatened. Thank you.

  2. Danuta Glendenning says:

    Don’t you think the Sumatran tiger was imported from Sumatra, Indonesia?

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