According to the City of Topeka, a female zookeeper was in the same area as a male tiger, named Sanjiv, when he attacked. She's now in stable condition, Wiley said. The tiger fathered four cubs a year ago, Wiley said.
The zoo has two adult Sumatran tigers: Jingga, a female, and Sanjiv, who was brought to the zoo in August 2017.
The zoo keeper was alert and awake when she was rushed to a hospital, where she was listed in stable condition, city of Topeka spokeswoman Molly Hadfield said by phone.
According to Wiley, the and Sanjiv were both in the outdoor tiger enclosure at the same time when the attack occurred and that "there really isn't a circumstance where they would be in the same space".
A tiger mauled a worker at England's Hamerton Zoo Park in 2017, and past year a zoo worker in the Japanese city of Kagoshima was killed by a tiger, according to media reports.
He later clarified that it's part of the daily process for the zookeeper to be in the tiger habitat to clean and maintain it, but the tiger should not have been in the space at that time.
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Some zoos participate in Sumatran tiger conservation programs created to save the species, but these efforts are not always successful.
The director credited his staff with a speedy and effective response that got the incident under control within 10 minutes.
Wiley added, "I would also like to extend our thoughts and prayers to our team member's family, that's where our focus is right now, just wishing for her speedy recovery". Elephant staff members were a short distance away and were able to lure the tiger back into its enclosure, where he was secured.
After the attack, the zoo closed for 45 minutes before reopening. "Some of our staff witnessed things that you hope you go through a career without witnessing", said Wiley.