KAGOSHIMA – A zookeeper has died after a white tiger mauled him Monday afternoon at a zoological park in Kagoshima, rescue workers said.
Akira Furusho, 40, was found collapsed and bleeding from the neck in a cage by a colleague after the Hirakawa Zoological Park closed for the day at 5 p.m. He was confirmed dead after being taken to a hospital. No visitors to the park were injured.
A veterinarian at the zoo used a tranquilizer gun to sedate the 5-year-old male tiger Riku, which was found in the same area as Furusho, the park said Tuesday. The tiger is about 1.8 meters in length and weighs about 170 kilograms.
The zoo was scheduled to move the tiger from the display cage to his sleeping chamber at the time Furusho was found. Its manual forbids a keeper from entering the display cage before a tiger has been moved into its sleeping chamber.
Police are investigating how the zoological park looks after the four white tigers it keeps, while labor authorities interviewed some workers to see if the zoo had possibly violated a law on safety at work.
The zoo, launched in 1972, is run by a public corporation under contract with the municipal government.
The zoo opened as usual Tuesday, but the area around the white tiger cage was sealed off to visitors.
Yukihiro Kawabata, who visited the zoo with his family from Miyazaki, said he was surprised to learn about the incident. “I saw that on the news. We had been looking forward to seeing white tigers, so it is too bad.”