Zookeeper escapes with life after tiger attacks her at Russian zoo

PHOTO: Reuters

MOSCOW - A zookeeper in Russia's westernmost city of Kaliningrad was in hospital but out of danger Tuesday after a being attacked by a tiger.

The big cat seriously injured the keeper on Sunday after escaping from an inner enclosure as visitors watched, zoo spokeswoman Yekaterina Mikhailova told AFP.

The keeper is now "in a stable condition", she said.

The powerful Siberian tiger, also known as the Amur tiger, is native to Russia and China and lives in dense snowy forests.

The keeper "entered the enclosure of one of our two Amur Tigers" and was cleaning it when the tiger pounced on her.

Photo: Reuters

A visitor named Viktoria who saw the accident, told the Vesti Kaliningrad television channel that the tiger "slashed the zookeeper's arms and she tried to defend herself."

With no other staff in the area to intervene, "the tiger attack lasted about ten minutes," another witness said.

Visitors threw stones and then tables and chairs from a nearby restaurant at the tiger, trying to distract it to allow the victim to escape.

Finally the keeper managed to enter a safe zone.

The attacker, 16-year-old Typhoon, has spent all but a year of her life at the zoo and had never attacked a human being before, the spokeswoman said.

Administrative and criminal probes have been opened to investigate the accident and are likely to point to human factors and the "negligence of security messages," the spokeswoman said.