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Staff members at Hamerton Zoo Park, a zoo in Cambridgeshire, England, are devastated after one of their own was mauled to death by a tiger this week. The victim was 33-year-old Rosa King, a staff member who had worked with the big cats at the zoo for 14 years. The tragic ordeal began on the morning of Monday, May 29.
Apparently, Rosa King let out a scream from inside the tigers' quarters sometime around 10:30 a.m. At least one zoo visitor watched as staff members bolted to the scene to aid King. Staff members tossed raw meat toward the tiger to distract it from King, and reportedly, the Magpas air ambulance received a call around 11:15 a.m. Sadly, the workers nor the paramedics were able to save King's life.
When the incident occurred, the park evacuated all guests as a safety precaution. Staff supposedly remained calm and professional as they asked all visitors to leave the premises, and people made their way to the exits in an orderly fashion despite the scary news.
In a statement, reported by CBS, the park said its thoughts were with Rosa King's family and friends as well as the park's staff members. The report explained the zoo's employees would not be commenting on the matter right away, as everyone was too distressed to speak about it. The park referred to the incident as "a freak accident" and assured people the safety of the public had not become compromised, as the animals remained contained. The park said it was participating in a full investigation and might later have details to offer.
People close to Rosa King said she loved working with the big cats, especially the cheetahs, which she called her pride and joy. They indicated King took exceptional care of the animals to which she attended, and she treasured her job. In fact, King's mother said,
She wouldn't have done anything else; it's what she has always done. It's what she has always loved.
From the sounds of it, Rosa King was highly professional. In fact, while working at the zoo, King had the pleasure of helping television presenter David Attenborough during an encounter with the animals. Unfortunately, exotic animals are not predictable. In fact, this incident has again sparked debate about whether keeping animals in captivity is the best setting for them. On the one hand, raising tigers in a zoo helps zookeepers protect the species and promote its numbers. On the flipside, keeping big cats together is stressful for the animals, as they do not naturally choose to live so close together in the wild.
Hamerton Zoo Park had another disturbing incident about ten years ago when a cheetah escaped from its enclosure and made its way into a nearby neighborhood. A nine-year-old boy noticed the cheetah in his backyard and ran inside for protection. The result of that report was much less dramatic, as the zookeepers collected the animal after a short while and returned it to the zoo. Hopefully, the investigation in the death of Rosa King will reveal information that helps to make sure similar situations never occur again.