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Zoo chief 'had to kill tiger to try to save keeper'

The Local · 27 Aug 2012, 16:20

Published: 27 Aug 2012 16:20 GMT+02:00

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Theo Pegel has been criticised for not trying to tranquillise the animal after the attack on Saturday. "This is the darkest day of my life," Pagel told reporters afterwards.

But he was defended by a colleague.

"One had to assume after the attack that the zoo keeper was still alive," Frankfurt Zoo director Manfred Niekisch said on HR radio on Monday. "Our colleagues in Cologne had no other choice."

Tranquillizing the tiger would have taken up to 15 minutes, he said– possibly crucial time to reach the woman who was bleeding badly.

The police agreed that the zoo director was within his rights, adding that the police service pistols would not have been much use against a tiger.

"Our guns would not have even scratched it," he said.

The city public prosecutor is investigating the 43-year-old woman’s death after, a spokesman confirmed to The Local on Monday.

"The autopsy will take place today, but we won't have the results right away. We expect the investigation to last several weeks," said Daniel Vollmert. He said an investigation was standard following a workplace death.

The zoo keeper, named in the German media as Ruth K. apparently failed to close a safety door while entering the tiger enclosure to clean it, and was attacked by a male Siberian tiger called 'Altai.'

A co-worker found Ruth K. unconscious and badly bleeding, while Altai was gone, according the Bild newspaper.

The zoo was evacuated as police moved in, using a helicopter to ensure they could maintain an overview of what was happening.

The tiger had by this time got into an administrative building – where a window was open through which he could have got out.

The director of the Cologne Zoo, Theo Pegel, shot and killed the tiger with a high calibre rifle through a skylight in the roof of the building.

Zoo officials were at a loss to explain what happened to Ruth K., a section head with many years of experience dealing with big cats.

Story continues below…

"We cannot currently explain how such an experienced keeper could make such a fatal mistake," said Pegel, adding that she should not have been inside the cage with the big cat.

The tragic attack has prompted some animal rights organizations to call for a nationwide check on zoo security systems while others say the incident shows that it is impossible to keep such animals captive in a suitable manner.

DPA/DAPD/The Local/sh

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:37 August 27, 2012 by PawD
It's a shame for the zoo... and a tragedy for the tiger who got the death sentence for no fault of his!
17:53 August 27, 2012 by GolfAlphaYankee
sometimes it amazes me that some people who love animals can't, it seems to me, extend the same for follow human beings....

the first thought I had reading the article (and the one of yesterday) is:

1- "poor woman, what a horrible death"

2- "couldn't they neutralize/kill the animal faster ?"

and yet what I read in yesterday comments was .... tiger... bla bla tiger ... bla bla !

some should rethink their priorities !

and the police is quoted saying : "Our guns would not have even scratched it"

what kind of guns the police uses in this country !!!!
18:24 August 27, 2012 by zeddriver

As for the pistols. 9MM Which are rather lacking in stopping power. But the reason police use them is to stop collateral damage. If they need to shot a bad guy. They don't want the bullet to go through said bad guy and into a bystander.

It is a terrible shame that both the zoo keeper and the big cat paid such a high price. But given that the director absolutely could not allow the cat to escape into Koln proper. He did what he had to do. He did the right thing.
19:53 August 27, 2012 by cheeba
A tragedy all around. You know the zoo keeper and the zoo director must have both been animal lovers. Why did the zoo director not have a gun at hand that shot high powered sedatives as well as bullets?

Remember 2 years ago they nearly had to shoot Knut when that mentally ill man entered his enclosure, in that case also all the zoo officials seemed to have at hand were guns with bullets, fortunately Knut did not attack so he had a short lived reprieve.

Guns equipped with powerful sedatives should be at hand in all zoos, we are basically keeping these large wild carnivores in prisons for our own enjoyment and we do have special obligations to them.
22:30 August 27, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
Couldn't give a crap about the cat. Very sorry for the woman and her family.
08:31 August 28, 2012 by szukalski
Powerful sedatives WERE at hand.

Not sure what fairy-tale movies you sedative bleaters have been seeing...

Anything potent enough to act on an animal that size almost instantaneously is going to kill it at best or give some permanent damage at worst (requiring euthanasia).

The zoo had all the right precautions in place, the sedatives were there, unfortunately they follow the laws of science so there were 2 choices, sedate the tiger and wait 15 minutes for the sedatives to take effect (causing the death of the keeper) or kill the animal and save the keeper. (There is no third option, a wounded animal is unpredictable and even more dangerous).

Next you'll be saying you can knock someone out and they wake up fifteen minutes later with no brain damage..
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