Tiger attacks keeper on morning walk at Australian zoo

Tiger attacks keeper on morning walk at Australian zoo

SYDNEY - A tiger attacked a keeper at a zoo in Australia on Thursday, leaving him with a "significant puncture wound" to the head at the popular tourist attraction, officials said.

The man in his 40s was treated by paramedics at the Sunshine Coast's Australia Zoo, founded by the family of late "Crocodile Hunter" star Steve Irwin, for wounds to his forehead and wrist and scratches to his body, a Queensland state ambulance spokesman said.

The head wound was "significant" but not life-threatening, the spokesman told AFP, adding that the man was taken to a nearby hospital in a stable condition.

An Australia Zoo statement said the injuries were "minor" and were sustained after the keeper, whom they did not name, was "scratched during a routine morning enrichment session".

"While walking through surrounding bushland at the zoo, Ranu - Australia Zoo's 12-year-old male Sumatran tiger - became overly interested in his surroundings and when his handler approached him to change direction, he swatted his paw resulting in a scratch on his left wrist, bicep and right side of the forehead," the statement added.

The handler would be discharged from the hospital later Thursday and return to work "in the coming days", the zoo said.

According to the zoo's website, handlers dealing with 120-kilogramme (264.5-pound) Ranu "have to keep in mind that he is the boss and it is very important to be patient with him".

The attack came more than two years after a Sumatran tiger mauled its handler at the zoo in Beerwah, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of the state capital Brisbane, on Australia's east coast.

Australia Zoo has seven Sumatran and three Bengal tigers.

Television personality and conservationist Steve Irwin died in 2006 when a stingray barb punctured his chest while he was filming a documentary on the Great Barrier Reef in far north Queensland.

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