Hamilton Zoo's Tiger Oz Won't Be Put Down

Publish Date
Monday, 21 September 2015, 4:44PM

Hamilton Zoo's male Sumatran tiger Oz will not be euthanised following the death of Zoo Curator Samantha Kudeweh.

Lance Vervoort, Hamilton City Council's general manager community, said although Samantha's death was a tragedy for the wider zoo family and international wildlife conservation community, senior zoo staff have ruled out euthanising Oz.

"We're aware there is a lot of interest and speculation around how we manage Oz now, and I want to assure the public and zoo supporters that he will not be put down," Mr Vervoort says.

"Although there is an inherent risk for zoo professionals who manage big cats like Oz, there is no wider ongoing risk. There is no reason for us to put Oz down."

Mr Vervoort says the decision not to euthanise Oz was made by zoo senior staff today. They have advised the Ministry for Primary Industries - the Government agency responsible for overseeing zoo and wildlife park operations in New Zealand - of this.

"This is our call, and the decision on Oz rested solely with us," Mr Vervoort says. "Oz is a significant animal for his species. He is the father of our two cubs, and he is vital to the ongoing breeding programme to conserve this rare species.

Mr Vervoort says the widely held view among zoo professionals was that Oz's attack on Samantha was in line with his natural instincts.

Hamilton Zoo will reopen on Thursday, and Mr Vervoort says some of the zoo's five Sumatran tigers will be on display. No decision has been made on whether visitors to the zoo will be able to see Oz.

Mr Vervoort said the zoo's popular Tiger Talks, Eye 2 Eye and Face 2 Face encounters for all species have been suspended until further notice to allow zoo staff time and space to grieve for their friend and colleague. Those aspects of the zoo experience will be assessed on a weekly basis.

Mr Vervoort said Hamilton Zoo will not be commenting on tiger management procedures until all investigations have been completed.

"We're firmly focussed on supporting Samantha's family, the zoo team, and make sure we conduct thorough and complete investigations into this tragic incident."

Mr Vervoort said Hamilton Zoo's phone lines and social media channels had been inundated with messages of support from around the country following Samantha's death.

"Our team is still coming to terms with what has happened, and the show of support from our community and the zoo industry worldwide has been very touching and hugely appreciated."

Mr Vervoort said Samantha's family had asked for ongoing privacy and time to grieve while arrangements are made for a service to celebrate her life.

- NZ Herald