A New Zealand zoo has decided that it won't euthanize a Sumatran tiger that attacked and killed a veteran zookeeper. The male tiger, named Oz, killed 43-year-old Samantha Kudeweh yesterday morning inside the animal's enclosure at the Hamilton Zoo. Kudeweh had been a zookeeper for more than 20 years and was the mother of two children, ages 9 and 3. The zoo, which houses five Sumatran tigers, is owned and operated by the city council. A council spokesman says there was always a risk for zoo staff in managing big animals like Oz but that the tiger didn't pose a wider risk.
"Oz is a significant animal for his species," the spokesman says. "He is the father of our two cubs, and he is vital to the ongoing breeding program to conserve this rare species." Sumatran tigers are considered critically endangered, with fewer than 400 of the tiger subspecies still living in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The council spokesman says the view of zoo professionals is that the attack was in line with the tiger's natural instincts. He says the zoo won't comment on what went wrong until an investigation is completed. (Houston Zoo euthanized an even rarer tiger last month.)