To Euthanize or To Not Euthanize

Lauren Rhodes, Staff Writer

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On Sunday, Sept. 20 a veteran female zookeeper from New Zealand was attacked and killed by a Sumatran tiger at New Zealand’s North Island Hamilton Zoo. The Sumatran tiger is a rare tiger species so rare The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) estimates fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers exist today. This puts them on the list of being critically engendered due to the constant poaching and high demand for tiger parts and products. According to the WWF this subspecies of tiger is only found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra with the exception of these tigers in New Zealand. These tigers enjoy Tropical broadleaf evergreen, forests, peat swamps and freshwater swamp forests.

This is not the first incident of this kind for a New Zealand zoo as this had been the third death in six years for zoos in New Zealand. The tiger in question was named Oz and was one of five Sumatran tigers at the zoo and was eleven years old and had just been moved from an Auckland zoo two years prior this incident. Officials at the zoo released a statement but declined to give specific details as to how the incident took place but they did mention that Oz the tiger did not escape from his enclosure. The tragic victim of the incident with the tiger has been identified as Samantha Kudeweh, the zoo’s curator who was responsible for the management of its animals.

In a statement written on the New Zealand’s Hamilton city council website Kudeweh was described as being recognized and respected globally for her talented and passionate knowledge of conservation and zoo professionalism. She had the expertise and an understanding of animals that was highly sought after by other zoos and captive animal breeding programs. Kudeweh had worked at the city’s zoo for 10 years and was married with two children.

On Monday city authorities stated zoo officials had decided against euthanizing Oz the tiger. The reasoning to them was simple. “Although there is an inherent risk for zoo professionals who manage big cats like Oz, there is no wider ongoing risk,” said Lance Vervoort, Hamilton City Council’s general manager for parks and other leisure services, therefore that incident happened and now it’s in the past and we as a city and zoo are safe once again. It seems as though this decision to not euthanize Oz feels like a slap on a wrist for a “bad kitty.” City officials didn’t just stop there and say there was no ongoing risk going forward, Vervoort went on to say, “There is no reason for us to put Oz down.” Are you kidding me, an animal in their protection attacked and killed one of its own a top respected sought after curator of animals at that. It seems there are not treating this incident as serious as they could be.

The zoo was adamant that while this incident was tragic and unfortunate the prevailing view amongst zoo professionals was that this attack was in line with Oz’s natural instincts. Personally I feel like their decision to not euthanize is somewhat a wrong decision and evidence of negligence on the zoo’s part. Vervoort states “Oz is a significant animal for his species.” “He is the father of our two cubs, and he is very vital to the ongoing breeding program to conserve this rare species.” Apparently that is grounds for a reprieve and he doesn’t have to face the consequences of his actions. It appears this New Zealand zoo is borrowing from SeaWorld’s plausible deniability tactic and essentially stating the cause of tragic incidents is trainer and or professional error. It just seems strange to blame qualified professionals for incidents involving animals held captive as just being the implicit risk associated with working these types of animals.

No one headed to their job should have to be in fear of their life and feel like being possibly being mauled and killed is just an associated possibility with the job they got hired to do. I’m not advocating for euthanizing all animals that attack and or kill caretakers. I’m just saying the zoo in this particular case seems to be glossing over how incredibly dangerous this Sumatran tiger is just so he can continue to bread to give more Sumatran tigers to the world for a profit. This incident happened on Sunday and Hamilton, New Zealand plans to reopen the zoo Thursday Sept. 24, 2015 and continue business as usual. A very cavalier way of saying what’s done is done, leaving a very sour taste in mouth that this zoo is not understanding the gravity of this tragic situation.

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