Last Sunday morning, senior zookeeper Samantha Kudeweh was tragically killed by Oz, a male Sumatran tiger. Investigations continue into the circumstances.
Sumatran tigers are a rare subspecies found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and are distinguished by heavy black stripes on their orange coats. Experts estimate the wild population at fewer than 400. Although protected by Indonesian law and despite increased conservation efforts, a substantial market remains in Asia for tiger parts. Deforestation and poaching mean this critically endangered creature may become extinct in our lifetimes. The Sumatran tiger's future perhaps lies in conservation work in zoos around the world. Latest figures put the captive population at 235 globally – five of those Sumatran tigers reside at Hamilton Zoo.
So the bombshell - dropped by Hamilton City Council CEO Richard Briggs - that the council "has not dismissed euthanising" as a consequence of the attack, is of grave concern.
Sam had worked at the zoo for more than 20 years. She described the live birth of three tiger cubs at the zoo late last year as a career highlight. She loved working with these rare animals, and I believe, if she was alive, she'd be horrified by any suggestion of killing one.
I'm certain that wildlife organisations world-wide would be outraged, should this irresponsible statement by CEO Briggs gain traction. I'm not alone in this thought: a public Facebook petition – to save the life of Oz – already has more than 4,000 likes.
Losing Samantha Kudeweh was tragic. But killing a critically endangered Sumatran tiger as a consequence defeats the very purpose for which she worked with such passion and love.
UPDATE: 21 Sept.2015 - The zoo decides that Oz the tiger will NOT be euthanised after all...methinx in future Mr Briggs needs to engage brain before putting mouth into gear!