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article imageSumatran tiger who killed NZ zookeeper won't be euthanized

By Megan Hamilton     Sep 22, 2015 in Environment
Hamilton - A zoo in New Zealand has decided it won't euthanize the Sumatran tiger who attacked and killed a veteran zookeeper.
The male tiger, named Oz, killed Samantha Kudeweh, 43, on Sunday morning inside an enclosure at the Hamilton Zoo.
The zoo houses five of the critically endangered Sumatran tigers and is owned and operated by the Hamilton City Council, ABC News reports. Lance Vervoort, the council's general manager for the community, said in a statement that risk was always a factor for zoo staff in managing large animals like Oz but the tiger doesn't pose a wider risk.
"Oz is a significant animal for his species," Vervoort said. "He is the father of our two cubs, and he is vital to the ongoing breeding program to conserve this rare species."
Estimates show there are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers surviving in the wild, The Washington Post reported, citing statistics compiled by the World Wildlife Fund.
Kudeweh, a mother of two, had a considerable amount of experience as a zookeeper, and, as the zoo's curator, her job entailed deciding which animals the zoo should take in and how to properly care for them. She was married to another professional at the zoo.
Zoo professionals believe that the attack was in line with the tiger's natural instincts, Vervoot said, according to The New Zealand Herald.
The zoo was closed after the attack and will reopen on Thursday.
The zoo won't comment on what went wrong until an investigation is completed, he said.
The public was never in danger during the incident and all animals remained in their enclosures, said Council spokesman Jeff Neems. He noted that 128,000 people visit the zoo each year, making it about the fourth most popular zoo in New Zealand.
Tragically, the future for these beautiful tigers looks quite bleak. Found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the population of Sumatran tigers was estimated at 1,000 in 1978, and while that doesn't seem like much, it's considerably higher than the estimate mentioned above, The World Wildlife Fund reports.
Now this tiger subspecies is barely hanging on in the remaining patches of forest that make up its home. Like seemingly everywhere else in the world, deforestation is rampant, as is poaching, and this means this magnificent cat may wind up extinct like its Javan and Balinese counterparts.
The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is the smallest surviving tiger subspecies, and they are distinguished by thick black stripes on their beautiful orange coats. Protected by law in Indonesia, there are strict provisions for jail time and steep fines. Even with increased efforts to save tigers — including law enforcement and anti-poaching measures-there is still increasing demand for tiger products and parts, coupled with the fact that the cats are losing their habitat and prey rapidly. Poaching shows no sign of decline.
In her biography, Kudeweh wrote:
"For me the best thing about my role is the opportunities to interact with other species one to one, but there is a down side and that is having to say goodbye to animals. That part never gets any easier."
Will we have to say goodbye to the Sumatran tiger?
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