Zookeeper attacked by tiger is out of intensive care

Zookeeper attacked by tiger is out of intensive care
Topeka Zoo via CNN
Tiger pens at the Topeka Zoo. The pens house two adult tigers and two cubs.

The zookeeper attacked by a tiger Saturday in Topeka, Kansas, is recovering.

“We’re blessed to be able to say she’s been moved out of intensive care late yesterday afternoon and still recovering at a hospital,” Zoo Director Brendan Wiley told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday.

“We’re not sure how long she’ll actually be there. But we can’t say enough thanks for everyone who sent their thoughts and prayer.

The woman and a 7-year-old male Sumatran tiger named Sanjiv were both in the tiger habitat shortly after the zoo opened when the tiger attacked her.

The zookeeper suffered “lacerations and punctures to the back of the head, neck, back and one arm,” Wiley told reporters over the weekend.

Zoo officials are investigating the incident.

“We’re still putting some of the pieces together. The short of it is she was in the same space with a Sumatran tiger. That should not have happened. The tiger simply did what a tiger would do and took her to the ground,” Wiley said Monday.

“Very quickly, someone at the zoo saw that, was able to get that information to another staff member who triggered our emergency protocol. And within 10 minutes, three additional zookeepers had that tiger secured in an indoor area, which allowed medical personnel to get our keeper.”

Wiley said the zoo has a system for tiger management, where there is “a barrier between the tiger and our zookeepers.” He said the tiger “should have been secured in an exhibit holding area before the staff person was in there.”

“We have a system, if you will build on different processes, and somehow Saturday morning, one of those processes failed. We’re doing an internal investigation. We’re going to identify which process let our system down. We’re not at a point where we’re pointing out blame on a person. But we know we need to correct a process so that this never happens again.”

Wiley described an unruffled and professional response from the zoo staff responding to the emergency.

“They were able to, first of all, just stay calm and defuse the situation. They were able to simply show that tiger his daily meat and encouraged him into an off-exhibit holding area where all this positive reinforcement training occurs,” he said. They “miraculously got him in there in quick time, which allowed emergency personnel to attend to our staff person.”

Wiley said over the weekend that the the zoo is not considering euthanizing the tiger. Sumatran tigers are a “critically rare” and an endangered species, Wiley said. Sanjiv recently fathered four cubs.

“While this incident is very unfortunate,” Wiley said, “he did what a wild animal, what a wild tiger does.”

The zoo was briefly closed after the incident, but has subsequently reopened.

CNN’s Deanna Hackney and Dakin Andone contributed to this report