Tiger Attacks, Kills Keeper At Florida Zoo

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Stacey Konwiser, husband Jeremy (right)

(CNN) – Palm Beach zookeeper Stacey Konwiser dedicated her life to protecting an endangered subspecies. Colleagues describe the 38-year-old as a wife, a daughter and a sister to those with whom she worked.

Konwiser was the lead tiger keeper at the Palm Beach Zoo. She was killed by a 13-year-old male Malayan tiger on Friday afternoon.

“Our condolences go out to the Konwiser family in the midst of this tragic loss,” zoo spokeswoman Naki Carter said at a press conference on Saturday. “While we will never speak with her again, her memory will live on.”

Funeral services are being organized, officials said. The zoo will remain closed through out the weekend.

The rare tiger was one of four at the facility, held in a contained area where the animals are fed and sleep, Carter said. The exhibit has surveillance cameras but is closed to the public, Carter said. It is not known at this time whether there is surveillance footage of the incident.

Zoo officials said it didn’t appear Konwiser did anything out of the norm as she worked in the enclosure, known as the tiger night house, and prepared to talk with zoo visitors Friday about the animals in a “Tiger Talk.”

“Stacey came here as a lead keeper, she is proficient and efficient in working with these animals,” Carter said. “Stacey was up to date on those protocols and executed those daily.” The incident is still considered an open investigation.

The tiger was off-exhibit at the time and no guests could see what happened, Carter said. The tiger was never on the loose, contrary to early reports on social media, she said.

West Palm Beach police said the tiger was tranquilized and officers waited until the drugs took effect before they could reach the victim, CNN affiliate WPEC reported. Konwiser was taken by helicopter to St. Mary’s Medical Center.

The tiger involved in the deadly incident is recovering from tranquilizers and remains at the Palm Beach Zoo, Carter said.