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Mauled keeper may lose her arm

The San Francisco Zoo employee was attacked by a Siberian tiger that she had just finished feeding. The reason for the attack is unknown.

December 24, 2006|From the Associated Press

San Francisco Zoo officials on Saturday continued to investigate an attack by a 350-pound Siberian tiger that left an experienced animal keeper with a severely injured arm.

At least 50 visitors were at the zoo's big cat exhibit, called the Lion House, when the tiger, Tatiana, reached through her cage's iron bars and grabbed the keeper Friday afternoon.

The woman was rushed into surgery at San Francisco General Hospital to save her lacerated limb.

Her family requested that her identity and condition not be publicly released, zoo and hospital officials said.

"My understanding is the injuries are not life-threatening, but perhaps limb-threatening," San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said.

The Lion House will remain closed to the public until further notice, but visitors can see Tatiana and the zoo's six other lions and tigers in the outdoor area of the exhibit, spokesman Paul Garcia said Saturday.

The trainer has been an animal keeper at the zoo since 1997. Her main job is caring for the zoo's four lions and three tigers, said Robert Jenkins, the zoo's director of animal care.

The attack happened at the regular 2 p.m. public feeding, during which keepers typically deliver a meal of fortified horsemeat through a small metal slot.

"No matter how familiar you get with these animals, they're still wild animals," Jenkins said. "You have to have a healthy respect for them and be aware of what can happen."

Tatiana arrived at the San Francisco Zoo from the Denver Zoo about a year ago to be a companion to Tony, a 14-year-old male Siberian tiger. The species is endangered, and zoo officials hope the two tigers will produce offspring.

There had been no previous incidents of aggression against humans involving Tatiana, said Ana Bowie, a Denver Zoo spokeswoman.

The mauling was the first attack of its kind during a demonstration at the Lion House, Garcia said.

According to its website, the San Francisco Zoo is one of the only zoos in the U.S. where visitors can see big-cat feedings.

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