Tributes paid to zookeeper killed by tiger

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(CNN) — A zookeeper killed by a tiger in an enclosure at a UK zoo was doing the job she loved, according to her mother.

Rosa King, 34, died on Monday in what was described as a “freak accident” at Hamerton Zoo Park in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. King’s mother Andrea told the UK Press Association she had worked at the zoo for 14 years.

“She wouldn’t have done anything else, it’s what she has always done, it’s what she has always loved,” she said.

Cambridgeshire Police said the tiger was unharmed.

The zoo, which is around two hours north of London, remained closed Tuesday as an investigation was carried out.

Meanwhile tributes were paid to King on social media.

Esther Spicer wrote on Facebook that she had spoken to the zookeeper a few times: “So sad that someone who dedicated her life to animals was taken by one so brutally,” she said.

Becky McClean wrote: “I come to Hamerton on a regular basis, it is only a few minutes from where I live. I’m so incredibly sad and my heart goes out to the victim of this terrible accident, her family and all of the staff at the zoo.”

The zoo said in a Facebook post that its staff were “distressed” following the keeper’s death, which happened about 11:15 a.m (6:15 a.m ET). It “appears to have been a freak accident” and a full investigation is underway, the zoo said.

“At no point during the incident did any animals escape their enclosures, and at no point was public safety affected in any way,” the Facebook post added.

Visitors were evacuated from the zoo following the tiger attack.

Victoria Holmes said she was taking pictures of another tiger when she saw zookeepers running toward an enclosure, which she later learned was where the fatal accident happened.

As she and her family walked near the accident scene, someone yelled for people to run. Holmes said she and her family ducked into an office until an employee said it was safe to leave.

“We could see staff members on the other side of the fence with pieces of meat trying to get [the tiger’s] attention,” said Holmes, who lives in the town of Corby in Northamptonshire. “It was heartbreaking seeing them trying to help.”

The website for Hamerton Zoo Park says its “Land of the Tiger” exhibit is a popular attraction. The zoo has housed tigers since 2001.

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