20 Sep 2015

Zookeeper killed in tiger attack named

10:05 pm on 20 September 2015

A female worker at Hamilton Zoo has died after being attacked by a tiger. She has been named as Samantha Lynda Kudeweh, 43, who lived in Pirongia, south west of Hamilton.

Ms Kudeweh was mauled by a male Sumatran tiger, named Oz, this morning. She was a senior member of the team and had been a zoo keeper for over 20 years.

Samantha Lynda Kudeweh

Samantha Lynda Kudeweh Photo: Hamilton Zoo website

According to the zoo's website, Ms Kudeweh worked as a curator at the attraction - bringing in new animals and telling visitors about them, and also sending animals to other zoos.

Before joining the team in Hamilton, she spent eight years at Auckland Zoo and two years at Melbourne and Werribee Zoos.

And before that she did a BSc at Auckland University.

Oz at Hamilton zoo.

Oz moved from Auckland Zoo to Hamilton Zoo for breeding in 2013. Photo: Supplied

Writing on Hamilton Zoo's website, Ms Kudeweh said one of the best things about her role was to interact with other species one to one.

Hamilton Council chief executive Richard Briggs said they were working alongside police, the Ministry for Primary Industries and a work safety inspector to determine what occurred.

He said the tiger had been safely contained in his enclosure. The zoo would remain closed until at least Thursday.

Emergency services were called to the zoo just after 11am this morning but were unable to save Ms Kudeweh who died at the scene.

Waikato police Senior Sergeant Juliet Burgess said it was a tragic accident and too early to determine exactly what happened.

The zoo's website said there were over 600 native and exotic animals living on site, including the Sumatran tiger.

There were five tigers at the zoo, a male and female in one enclosure, and a female and two cubs in another enclosure.

The 25 hectare zoo was founded in 1969 in the suburb of Rotokauri and is owned by the Hamilton City Council.

In 2013, a tiger took a swipe at a keeper at the zoo after a door was mistakenly left open.

Security at the zoo was upgraded after the incident.

Oz moved from Auckland Zoo to Hamilton Zoo for breeding in 2013. The tiger is 11 years old.

It was relocated from Tel Aviv to Auckland in 2006 and fathered Auckland Zoo's first tiger cubs.

Hamilton Zoo after the deadly tiger attack

Hamilton Zoo after the deadly tiger attack Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae