FULL REPORT: Topeka Zoo says zookeeper violated protocol before tiger attack

Local News

The Topeka Zoo blames Kristyn Hayden-Ortega’s violation of protocol for the tiger attack that left her with serious head and neck injuries. 

In a new incident report released Thursday morning by Zoo Director Brendan Wiley, the zoo combines witness recollections of the incident, internal investigation and review of policy to imply Hayden-Ortega did not follow proper safety steps – including locking male Sumatran tiger Sanjiv inside a separate space — before entering his exhibit.

“I know she doesn’t blame Sanjiv,” Wiley said. “He’s a tiger. He was doing what tigers do.”

On the morning of April 20, a staff person omitted the crucial step of locking the tiger inside prior to the staff person entering the outdoor habitat.

“There’s a lot of questions that, unless Sanjiv figures out how to tell us, we’ll never know the answers to,” Wiley said.

The report adds the zoo changed protocol within two hours of the attack to include an additional policy to “prevent the chance of human error repeating a situation like the one that occurred the morning of April 20.”

One of their new safety protocols includes using CO2 fire extinguishers, something they already have. The extinguishers are used when two animals are meeting for the first time, and if the animals aren’t getting along is when they use it. The extinguishers release a powder that turns cold at contact, then later dries.

“It’s just one more tool we can put in more locations in case it’s needed,” Wiley said. “If it can happen here, we want other places to learn not just about what happened, but what we’re doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Read the full incident report from the Topeka Zoo below:

Hayden-Ortega was last reported out from the hospital and in a rehab facility April 30.

“In my heart, I think she’ll be back,” Wiley said. “It’s definitely in her character to do that.”

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