Hamerton Zookeeper dies in 'freak tiger accident'

One of the pictures of a tiger in its enclosure at Hamerton Park Zoo
Image caption The zoo includes enclosures for Malaysian tigers and Bengal tigers

A zookeeper has died in a "freak accident" after a tiger entered an enclosure at a wildlife park.

The death happened at Hamerton Zoo Park, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, at about 11:15 BST.

Cambridgeshire Police said: "A tiger had entered an enclosure with a keeper. Sadly the female zoo keeper died at the scene."

Visitors were led away from the zoo. At no time did the animal escape from the enclosure, said police.

Officers investigating the death said it "is not believed to be suspicious".

Image copyright Heidi Maury
Image caption An air ambulance landed at the wildlife park but there were no other injuries

Hamerton Zoo Park said in a statement: "This appears to have been a freak accident.

"At no point during the incident did any animals escape their enclosures and at no point was public safety affected in any way.

"All our thoughts and sympathies are with our colleagues, friends and families at this dreadful time.

"The park will be closed from tomorrow 30th May, and we will give more information as soon as we can."

An investigation is under way, the zoo said.

Image caption A new tiger enclosure opened at the zoo last summer

A visitor to the zoo, who does not wish to be named, told the BBC: "We got to the zoo at opening time, around 11:45.

"We were close to the tiger enclosure when a member of staff shouted for everyone to leave the park quickly and immediately."

Hamerton Zoo Park

The wildlife park opened in June 1990 and covers some 25 acres.

It includes enclosures for Malayan tigers, Bengal tigers, cheetahs, wolves, corsac foxes, kangaroos as well as a variety of birds, reptiles and domestic animals.

The zoo opened a new enclosure for its Malayan tigers in July last year.

In October 2008 a cheetah which escaped from the park was found by a nine-year-old boy in the back garden of his family home.

Another visitor said: "I was taking pictures of the leopards. The parrots were flying and squeaking and going berserk.

"Then staff were running towards the tigers and lions area. We were all told to leave the park. But after 20 minutes everyone was allowed back in.

"Staff asked us to leave again. They're not saying what happened. However, they were great. They were calm, just doing their job."

Visitor Jeff Knott, 32, from Cambridgeshire, said staff had been "a real credit" to the zoo during the evacuation.

"Staff were very calm and professional," he said.

"All visitors around us were leaving in a very calm manner - no running, shouting or anything similar."

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