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Zoo Could Have Shot Tiger as It Mauled Keeper, Didn't

Tranquilizing tiger instead delayed help for injured keeper Stacey Konwiser
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2016 6:20 AM CDT
Updated Apr 22, 2016 6:40 AM CDT
Zoo Could Have Shot Tiger as It Mauled Keeper, Didn't
In this March 7, 2015, photo, Stacey Konwiser smiles during the dedication of the new tiger habitat at the Palm Beach Zoo in West Palm Beach, Fla.   (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post via AP)

To kill, or to tranquilize? Palm Beach Zoo is defending its choice of taking the latter route when keeper Stacey Konwiser was attacked and fatally injured by a tiger last Friday. Police say the choice meant that it took longer for emergency personnel to reach Konwiser, who died after being airlifted to a hospital in critical condition. But zoo spokeswoman Naki Carter tells NBC News that the ammunition required to kill a tiger "comes with a series of checks and balances" and "based on what we know at this time," using a tranquilizer, which can take as long as 10 minutes to take effect, was the right decision. Experts say that while few details on the death have been released, Konwiser was in a tiger sleeping enclosure, and the danger of ricochets hurting either the shooter or Konwiser may have played a role in the decision.

The county medical examiner says the 37-year-old died from a neck injury, though he didn't say whether she was bitten or clawed, CBS News reports. The Zoo Miami communications director tells NBC that the policy at that zoo would be to shoot the animal in order to rescue the human as quickly as possible—but it would be pointless to euthanize the tiger, one of just 250 of the Malayan subspecies left on the planet, now. "The tiger was being a tiger," he says. The Palm Beach Post reports that the zoo issued a statement Thursday saying it won't give more details on the death until state and federal investigators conclude their work. "Rumors circulating from disgruntled staff members" are "completely inaccurate," the statement said. (This woman scaled a tiger fence to get her hat back.)

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