The Tragedy of the Keeper Who Made the Rules and Did Not Keep Them

All it takes is a split second for single mistake to change it all

Yes, Stacy Konwiser most definitely knew what she was doing. At the Palm Beach Zoo, she was the lead tiger keeper and as such, she was an experienced handler who knew all of the protocols keep both people and the animals safe. Earlier this month when she was fatally attacked, she had been in an area which is called the “tiger night house,” and according to investigators.

The matter at hand is not whether the Palm Beach Zoo´s protocols and safety standards are adequate or not. They are, and these protocols instruct that a keeper should never go into an area that a tiger is able to access. At the time that she was attacked, Konwiser should not have been inside of that enclosure.

The question then is why she was in there? We can only assume that it was either a horrible oversight or a mistake on Konwiser´s behalf which took her life; however that is something we will never know. She knew very well how dangerous these animals can be, she was actually the author of the protocols in place at the zoo, she would know that this would be the likely result of entering an enclosure that a tiger has access to. , this area is clearly marked as an area in which the tigers have active access to fleet vets.

It has been my honour to have the opportunity to tour a tiger sanctuary here in San Diego; I was able to see these creatures up close, within the bound which are usually meant for zookeepers. As I as there the tiger approached the fence and jumped right on it in front of me, the only thing that was between us was a chain link fence. There has never been a time in my life that I felt so small. There is no a person who in their right mind would knowing her near a tiger without proper protection. As magnificent as they are, they are brutal.

At the moment of Konwiser´s attack, the zoo was forced to make a split-second decision about whether bullets or tranquillizers should be used to shoot the tiger, they chose tranquillizers. There were several factors that led to this decision, for starters they could have caused further injury to Konwiser or injured other from bullet ricochets, and there is also the fact that the tiger was one on the mere two hundred and fifty Malayan tigers left in the world. What this tiger did was not unexpected. The tiger was in a place he knew he had access to and doing things that if they were presented, are normal for a tiger to do.

When it comes to the decision that the zoo made and whether it was the right or wrong one, there is no count on that. If you were to ask someone who is as dedicated to these creatures as Konwiser herself was whether or not an animal deserved to die due to someone else´s mistake, I am pretty sure that the answer would be no. The tiger remains alive and the zoo is not planning on changing that.

The tragic death of Konwiser is a wake-up call for all of us who take on dangerous things daily, from simply driving to the grocery store or working with apex predators. There are rules and regulations in place such as, do not drive and check your cell phone, wear a seatbelt and double check the gates which are there to keep us safe, yet so many times we tell ourselves, just once I will let it slide. If that one time everything is fine, the next time it is even easier to ignore the rules. When a rule turns into a guideline, and a guideline becomes a suggestion, well that is when mistakes occur.

And the price is paid by good people.