On Friday, 38-year-old Stacey Konwiser was killed by a Malayan tiger at the Palm Beach Zoo when she was in its "night house" and preparing for a demonstration. Her death made headlines around the world, but the zoo insisted that it did not blame, and would not euthanize, the tiger — one of four such species kept at the zoo and only about 250 in the world. In fact, the zoo declined to say which tiger had done the killing.
But now, zoo officials say some people have threatened to kill the tiger.
These officials asked media outlets not to name which tiger did the killing — but the Palm Beach Post did and is now facing a backlash from readers. The Post defended its actions, saying that the public had a right to know the truth and that zoo officials seemed somewhat evasive in sharing information. The Post story noted that the official who called 911 took 97 seconds to say that a person had been harmed. The Post also said that it "has been unable to verify any threats [against the tiger] with police and oversight agencies."
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Murders of zoo animals are not unheard-of here. In 1992, someone broke into the zoo — then called Dreher Park Zoo — and butchered Candy, a white-tailed deer. In 1985, two teenagers broke into the zoo and killed Freddy the alligator (the mascot of the South Florida Water Management District). They smashed his skull, poked out his eyes, and hacked off his tail. In 1993, a kinkajou, a golden lion tamarin, and a Goeldi`s monkey were stolen by vandals.
In a statement released by public relations manager Naki Carter last night, the zoo said:
Identifying the animal only serves to stigmatize and potentially places the tiger in harm’s way.
The Zoo continues to cooperate with multiple agencies involving the tragedy. The Zoo is an organization deeply committed to species survival. The Zoo has no interest in assisting, allowing or encouraging blame on one of only 250 Malayan tigers remaining in existence.
The male Malayan tiger involved in the April 15th incident has never been blamed or identified. His future has never been in jeopardy. His age has never been divulged. He has never been involved in any other incident at Palm Beach Zoo. The Zoo has never had any other animal-related human deaths in its 60-year history.
Carter's voicemail was full this morning, and she has not yet responded to emailed questions from New Times.