18 Mar 2016

Council charged over zookeeper's death

5:04 pm on 18 March 2016

Hamilton City Council is being prosecuted over the death of a zookeeper last year.

Samantha Lynda Kudeweh

Photo: Hamilton Zoo website

Samantha Kudeweh was mauled by a male Sumatran tiger on 20 September last year. The 43-year-old was a senior member of the team and had been a zookeeper for over 20 years.

WorkSafe New Zealand said in a statement it was prosecuting the council for breaching the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

The council was being charged for failing to take all practical steps to ensure Ms Kudeweh was not exposed to hazards while working with the tiger.

WorkSafe filed the charge, which carries a maximum fine of $250,000, in the Hamilton District Court today.

A date for the first appearance has not yet been set.

Hamilton City Council said it had not yet decided how it would plea to the charge.

The council said it would not comment further until it knew the details of the prosecution and how it would plead.

Chief executive Richard Briggs said the council was committed to ensuring staff at the zoo were safe.

Family spokesperson Catherine Nichols said shortly after Ms Kudeweh's death that the zoo curator had been "recognised and respected globally as a talented, passionate and highly knowledgeable conservation and zoo professional".

Ms Kudeweh grew up in Papakura, and studied at Lincoln University and Auckland University toward a Bachelor of Science before working at Auckland Zoo for several years.

She was married to Richard, who also worked at the zoo, and the couple had two children - Billy and Sage.

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