A young zookeeper was mauled to death by a tiger in a safari park after her colleagues failed to alert her that the cage door was open.
Catalina Torres Ibarra, 21, an ecotourism graduate was savagely killed in the tiger enclosure in Chilean Safari Park, South America on August 6.
The 21-year-old was among the staff cleaning and performing maintenance work in the big cat’s cage at a safari park in the city of Rancagua, 60 miles south of the capital Santiago.
The safari section of the location allows parkgoers to explore the big cats while sitting inside a caged vehicle as the animals move around freely, but animals are confined in enclosures when staff is working.
According to reports, Catalina was cleaning at the enclosure at the time when the fatal attack occurred. The tiger jumped on her, bit down on her neck wherein she died instantly.
Catalina’s fellow zookeeper Leonardo Maluenda claims she was not advised that the cage door was open.
“The most logical thing is that they tell you to be careful if you go to clean up there because the tiger is loose, but they did not warn her,” Leonardo told the press.
Williams Espinoza of the Rancagua police said Catalina’s suffering was brief.
“She did not realize that the door of the animal’s cage was open and was immediately attacked by this tiger, causing her death on the spot,” Espinoza said.
Antonio Rojas, finance manager at the park, claimed that a group of workers had deliberately unlocked the tigers’ cage against protocol.
However, the workers under investigation have strongly denied the accusations saying that the cage was already open and that they did not open it themselves.
After the attack, the park was closed for investigation, as Jorge Mena of the regional public prosecutor’s office said they’re also investigating the incident over potential third-party liability.
Catalina was tasked with cleaning and maintenance at the safari park, where she had been working for over two years, and she occasionally gave guided tours to families.
But none of her duties involved having direct contact with any of the animals.
The Rancagua Safari Park did not respond to a request for comment and the tiger that killed Catalina had not been euthanized, but its condition remains unclear.
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