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Palm Beach Zoo, Where Keeper Was Mauled by Tiger, Has Had 3 Past Incidents

by Elisha Fieldstadt and Kerry Sanders /  / Updated 
Stacey Konwiser, a zookeeper at the Palm Beach Zoo died today after an incident with a Malaysian tiger at the zoo in West Palm Beach, Florida.Joe Forzano / Palm Beach Post via ZUMA

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The Florida zoo where a keeper was mauled to death by a tiger last week has dealt with at least three other incidents — dating back to 1990 — in which staff members were wounded by animals, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Palm Beach Zoo tiger expert Stacey Konwiser died Friday after she was attacked by one of the zoo's four Malayan tigers. Upon reopening Monday, a statement from the zoo said that the incident was still under investigation, and the tiger would remain at the zoo.

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Zoo officials have said that Konwiser's death marked the first in the 60-year-history of the zoo, but reports released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission showed that other staffers have been injured due to animal attacks at the zoo.

In 1990, a maintenance worker was bitten in the back of his head by a monkey. The worker was in a monkey enclosure without management's approval, according to one incident report. The report said the employee was new and had not been warned not to go into the area where the monkeys were kept.

The following two incidents reported by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also involved tigers.

  • One keeper was bitten to the bone on her finger while hand feeding a tiger in 2008, according to one of the reports. The Fish and Wildlife Commission said the keeper, who had nearly two years of experience with tigers, was at fault for the bite, but recommended that the zoo review their practice of hand-feeding, which "has proven to be a safety hazard."
  • Three years later, a maintenance worker was scratched on his back by a tiger after jumping a barrier fence to remove something from a restricted area. According to verbal protocol, the employee was not supposed to be in the area without alerting animal staff, which the zoo said they would document in written policy, the report said.

The tiger involved in last week's attack has never been part of any other incidents against people at the Palm Beach Zoo, zoo spokeswoman Naki Carter told NBC News on Tuesday.

In response to an inquiry about the past incidents detailed in the Wildlife Conservation Commission reports, Carter added that the zoo was inspected in January and no violations were found.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, zoo officials also said the tiger in question has been receiving "threats" — prompting an investigation by authorities. The post did not specify the nature of the threats.

"The Zoo is an organization deeply committed to species survival," the statement said. "The Zoo has no interest in assisting, allowing or encouraging blame on one of only 250 Malayan tigers remaining in existence."

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