British zoo to decide fate of tiger that killed keeper, police say

More than 1,000 sign online petition urging Cambridgeshire zoo not to put animal down

Zookeeper Rosa King. Photograph: Facebook/Hamerton Zoo Park

The decision on the future of a tiger that killed a keeper at an animal park in Cambridgeshire, England, will be left to the zoo, police have said.

Rosa King died at Hamerton Zoo Park on Monday after the tiger entered the enclosure she was working in, in what the zoo described as a "freak accident".

Huntingdonshire district council, which granted the zoo’s licence, is currently investigating health and safety at the animal park but the fate of the tiger remains uncertain.

Cambridgeshire police are also conducting an investigation to deliver to the coroner but stressed there were no suspicious circumstances. The force said the animal was unharmed. “The zoo will make a decision about the future of the tiger,” it said.


Hamerton Zoo Park, which remains closed, released a statement on Wednesday, expressing its deepest condolences to the family and friends of King (33), describing her as an invaluable and highly respected member of its team. It said it was co-operating fully with the council environmental health department but made no mention of the tiger.

Nicola O’Brien the campaigns director at the Captive Animals Protection Society, urged the zoo not to put the animal down. “You cannot blame a wild animal for doing what is does naturally. It shouldn’t have been in that position. It’s just horrific that a member of staff got killed on Monday.”


An online petition urging the zoo not to kill the tiger, because it “was only doing as its instinct tells it”, had more than 1,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums said zoos are required to have procedures in place to guard public safety “which may include euthanasia of the animal if deemed necessary”.

The international wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation said the incident highlighted “possible deficiencies in the current zoo licensing regime” and the need for a full-time, independent and centralised zoo inspectorate.

Another tiger that killed a zookeeper in 2013 at South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Cumbria was spared after the attack. The family of the 24-year-old victim, Sarah McClay, said she would not have wanted the animal, named Padang, destroyed.

Padang remained at the park until it was put down last year because of old age and health reasons.

The zoo was fined almost £255,000 (£258,000) for health and safety breaches connected to McClay’s death after it was found the Sumatran tiger escaped through an unlocked gate.

Hamerton Zoo Park was told to review and replace ageing safety barriers "where the structural integrity of the barrier is compromised" after a 2013 inspection, the Daily Telegraph reported.

It quoted the report as saying: “Inspectors consider that reliance on mobiles to communicate in an emergency is not sufficient and the system needs to be upgraded to ensure that all relevant staff can be contacted simultaneously.”

Distressed staff are said to have thrown meat into the enclosure in a desperate attempt to help Ms King during the incident.

One witness, Pete Davis, told BBC Radio 5 live: "You could obviously see the keepers were all distressed and, you know, not really knowing what to do, heads in their hands. A couple of them were throwing meat over the enclosure to try and entice the tiger away."

Ms King's mother, Andrea, told the Press Association her daughter had worked at the zoo for about 14 years. She said: "She wouldn't have done anything else, it's what she has always done, it's what she has always loved." – (Guardian service)