Zookeeper hospitalized after tiger attack at Topeka Zoo

The Topeka Zoo has decided not to euthanize the tiger, named Sanjiv, noting that Sumatran Tigers are critically endangered, according to a spokesperson.

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By Safia Samee Ali and Jay Varela

A zookeeper in Kansas was hospitalized after an attack by a Sumatran tiger at the Topeka Zoo on Saturday. The trainer was out of surgery and stable but remained hospitalized on Sunday, according to Molly Hadfield, a spokesperson for the City of Topeka.

The tiger, named Sanjiv, was in the same area as the keeper when the animal attacked, Hadfield said.

The incident took place while the park was open to the public and "a few people" saw the attack happen, she said. The zoo shut down for around 45 minutes while employees handled the tiger and helped the injured zookeeper.

Sanjiv, a male Sumatran tiger, at the Topeka Zoo in Kansas.Topeka Zoo / via Facebook

The zoo was open on Saturday and the zoo's female tiger and her four cubs were in the public exhibit, according to Hadfield.

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The Topeka Zoo has decided not to euthanize the tiger, noting that Sumatran Tigers are critically endangered and Sanjiv was a wild tiger doing what wild tigers do, according to Hadfield. Sanjiv was in a holding pen on Saturday but would be in the public exhibit on Sunday, she said.

"The male Sumatran tiger, Sanjiv, simply reacted the way that is normal for a tiger to do," Zoo Director Brendan Wiley said in a statement. "There is absolutely no consideration of euthanizing the tiger."

The injured keeper was "alert and awake" when she was transported by medical responders.

The city said in a later statement that the incident occurred at around 9:15 a.m. when "a Zoo Keeper found herself in the same outdoor space with a seven year old Sumatran tiger."

The tiger was never out of its enclosure, the city said.

Sumatran tigers can weigh anywhere between 160 to 300 pounds, and only an estimated 400 are left in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

"For this critically endangered species we have an active breeding program, we make regular contributions to the science of caring for this species and our community financially supports a ranger on the ground in Sumatra," Wiley said.

"Right now, our focus is on our injured team member," he continued. "Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family."

An investigation will be conducted over the next several days, which will include a review of all policies and procedures around tiger management at the zoo.

"If we need to make updates to our current procedures, we will most certainly do that," Wiley said in the statement.