A zookeeper was fatally mauled today by a rare white tiger at a New Zealand wildlife park as horrified tourists looked on, police said. The male keeper was killed by a royal white tiger while cleaning an enclosure at Zion Wildlife Gardens near the city of Whangarei in New Zealand's north. Eight foreign tourists at the park were understood to have witnessed the attack, police said. Police did not name the keeper but he was reported to be South African Dalu Mncube, who rescued a colleague from another attack earlier this year.
An Auckland man who was with two English friends and saw the keeper being mauled told a Fairfax reporter at the scene that the visitors were in shock after the incident. "It was very, very frightening," said the man who declined to be named. Two keepers had gone into an enclosure containing two white tigers a male and a female and the male attacked one of them, Whangarei police said. The second keeper tried to force the tiger to release his colleague but he was unable to save him, Inspector Paul Dimery said.
"The other keeper has done some really excellent work and has tried his best but unfortunately it still didn't save the other keeper's life," Mr Dimery told Radio New Zealand. "He's traumatised as all the staff at the Zion park are." Mr Dimery said the tiger would not release the keeper and had to be shot to allow the body to be removed from the enclosure. In February, another employee of the park Demetri Price, required surgery after he was attacked by a white tiger named Abu.
Mr Mncube, the park's senior cat handler, saved his colleague by using his hands to open the tiger's jaws and spraying it with a fire extinguisher. Some reports said the same tiger was involved in the latest attack, which left Mr Mncube with fatal injuries to his head, torso and legs. The Zion Wildlife Gardens website said there are only 120 royal white tigers left in the world, and the Bengal tiger subspecies was extinct in the wild.