KYOTO – A 150-kg tiger attacked and killed its keeper Saturday while he was cleaning its cage at a zoo in Kyoto.
Atsushi Ito, 40, was pronounced dead at a hospital about three hours after sustaining head, face, neck and hand injuries in the attack, according to Kyoto City Zoo.
The zoo, which is in Sakyo Ward, was open at the time, but no one knew about the attack until a woman noticed Ito bleeding on the ground of the cage and alerted zoo officials.
A veterinarian later stunned the tiger — an 11-year-old Siberian male — with a tranquilizer gun. Ito was removed from the cage at around 10:15 a.m. and taken to the hospital.
The zoo was shut after the incident and the visitors escorted to safety. The zoo will also be closed Sunday.
The police said Ito likely entered the cage to clean it after attempting to lure the tiger to one of two pens by leaving a chicken inside it. He was later found on the floor of the other pen, with the doors to both open.
Police believe Ito failed to properly close the doors when he tried to clean the pens, which allowed the tiger to re-enter and attack him.
An autopsy has determined that Ito died from a broken neck, the police said.
The Siberian tiger is considered the largest of the tiger species and can grow to as large as 300 kg. The one at the zoo had been on loan from Tama Zoological Park in Tokyo since October 2007 for breeding purposes.
According to the zoo, the tiger exhibit consists of an open area bordered on one side by a bank of two separate pens.