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Topeka zookeeper attacked by tiger released from ICU; tiger back on display

Topeka Zoo discusses tiger attack that left zookeeper with critical injuries

Topeka Zoo director Brendan Wiley discusses the attack by a male Sumatran tiger on a female zoo staff member Saturday that left her with critical injuries. Wiley answered questions on Sunday in a news conference at the Zoo.
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Topeka Zoo director Brendan Wiley discusses the attack by a male Sumatran tiger on a female zoo staff member Saturday that left her with critical injuries. Wiley answered questions on Sunday in a news conference at the Zoo.

A Topeka zookeeper who was attacked by a Sumatran tiger Saturday has been released from intensive care, officials said.

The keeper, who suffered major lacerations and puncture wounds to her head, neck and back, was in stable condition and moved Sunday to a different unit of the hospital where she was being treated, Topeka city spokeswoman Mally Hadfield said.

Sanjiv, the zoo’s 7-year-old male Sumatran tiger, attacked the zookeeper in the tiger’s outdoor habitat as visitors watched. The tiger was lured away so the zookeeper could receive emergency aid.

The zookeeper’s name has not been released and her family requested privacy. She is reportedly the mother of a 3-year-old son.

During a news conference Sunday, Topeka Zoo Director Brendan Wiley described himself as thankful the keeper survived the attack.

“It could’ve gone very differently,” he said.

For some staff members, Saturday was traumatic, Wiley said. He commended his staff’s response, saying instead of freezing, they “reacted in an amazing way.”

The zoo, which is conducting an internal investigation, will determine what changes might be needed after talking to the injured worker, who Wiley said “had to get better first.”

Wiley described the keeper, who has worked at the zoo since 2002 and has several years of experience with tigers, as dedicated and attentive.

The zoo has no plans to euthanize Sanjiv, who was back on display Sunday. The tiger came to the zoo in 2017. His mating with the zoo’s female tiger resulted in four cubs born in October. The cubs went on open display last month.

Wiley has not said the keeper did anything wrong. But he has said the keeper and the tiger were “definitely not supposed to be in the same area at the same time.”

The Associated Press and reporting from the Star’s Eric Adler contributed to this report.

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