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Police release name of Hamilton zookeeper mauled to death by tiger

Police have released the name of the zookeeper who was killed after a male tiger attacked this morning.

The victim was 43-year-old Samantha Lynda Kudeweh.

Ms Kudeweh was a senior member at Hamilton Zoo and had worked as a zookeeper for over 20 years, police say.

She lived in the small town of Pirongia, southwest of Hamilton.

According to Hamilton Zoo's website, Ms Kudeweh was a former zookeeper at Auckland Zoo, where she worked for eight years.

She also spent two years at Melbourne and Werribee Zoos.

Ms Kudeweh's staff profile on the zoo's website states her favourite animal was a rhino.

She described "the best thing" about her role was "the opportunities to interact with other species one to one, but there is a down side and that is having to say goodbye to animals. That part never gets any easier." 

The woman is the third keeper to be killed at a New Zealand zoo in six years. Source: 1 NEWS

Flowers have been laid outside Hamilton Zoo's doors by many who wish to pay their respects to the victim.

Emergency services were called to the zoo just after 11.00am and St John ambulance confirmed Ms Kudeweh had died.

This is a tragic incident - Senior Sergeant Juliet Burgess

There are reports she was attacked by the Sumatran tiger when the enclosure was being cleaned.

“Sadly the staff member who was attacked by the tiger has died at the scene,” Senior Sergeant Juliet Burgess, Waikato District Command Centre said.

Flowers laid outside the doors of Hamilton Zoo where a female keeper was killed. Source: 1 NEWS

“This is a tragic incident. It is too early to determine exactly what’s happened."

Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs says the council is "deeply saddened" to confirm their staff member's death.

He said at no time today had any zoo animals not been contained.

"There has been no risk to visitors at the zoo today or the public," Mr Briggs said.

There were a dozen people visiting the zoo at the time, mostly families and none of them saw what happened. 

The zoo will remain closed to the public until Thursday and staff are being offered counselling.

Meanwhile, 11-year-old Oz has been confirmed as the tiger responsible for the attack and he has been isolated in an enclosure.

The zoo won't confirm what will happen to him.

Oz arrived at Auckland Zoo in 2006 and fathered the zoo’s first tiger cubs in 2008.

The Sumatran tiger cubs.

He was transferred to Hamilton Zoo in 2013 to be matched up with female tiger Sali, who later gave birth to two cubs.

Hamilton police are working with Hamilton Zoo staff and Worksafe NZ to investigate, Senior Sergeant Burgess said.

In April 2012 keeper Helen Schofield was crushed to death by an elephant at Franklin Zoo near Auckland which later closed.

And in 2009 a rare white tiger killed Clifford Dalu MnCube at Whangarei's Zion Wildlife Gardens.