A young zoo-keeper was attacked by a Siberian Tiger in front of horrified visitors as she went into its enclosure to feed it.
The woman’s life was miraculously saved by quick-thinking onlookers who were said to have shouted at and thrown things at the 15-year-old male tiger.
People who witnessed the events unfold took action by lifting a table and chairs from a nearby cafe, hurling them over the fence to distract the tiger, who is called Taifun.
The unnamed zoo-keeper was left seriously injured but was taken to hospital is said to be ‘expected to survive’.
Dramatic photos taken of the attack show the terrified woman on her back on the ground with her hands out in front of her, desperately trying to keep Taifun off her.
The woman can be seen screaming in terror as the animal, which had ‘never attacked a keeper before’, takes numerous swipes at her with its giant paws.
But thanks to the tiger being distracted by people yelling as well as flying objects, the woman was able to get up and quickly escape to safety.
One witness told the media:
The girl’s face was bleeding – she screamed and tried to fight off the animal.
Reports say there were ‘no other employees’ of the zoo present at the time of the attack and it was left to visitors to step in and save the keeper from certain death.
The Siberian tiger – the largest species of cat in the world – was supposed to be contained in another part of its compound when the woman brought in its food. But reports said there was ‘clearly a problem’ and the tiger – which has been described as ‘elderly’ – was able to attack.
A spokesman for the zoo said:
The animal entered the enclosure when the keeper was there. The tiger attacked the human.
Visitors with their shouting, stones and other improvisation managed to distract the animal. This allowed the zoo employee to hide in a back room.
Later zoo staff later arrived at the scene and shot a sedative into the tiger.
A local health ministry spokesman said:
The patient was delivered to the hospital with multiple wounds to the body and limbs.
She is conscious – her condition is assessed as stable but critical. There is no threat to her life.
The woman is being kept in intensive care at a hospital in Kaliningrad, a Russian region between Poland and Lithuania.
Taifun was born on July 1, 2001 in Chelyabinsk Zoo but was later moved to Kaliningrad Zoo. He was reportedly had a ‘bad temper’ following the attack on the keeper, which was ‘out of character’.
A source said:
Taifun has never before shown any aggression to zoo staff.
Wishing a full and quick recovery to the zoo-keeper.