Rosa King, who was killed in an accident at Hamerton Zoo, eastern England, on Monday, has been described as passionate and “exceptional”.
The 33-year-old was attacked while working in an enclosure when a big cat managed to gain entry.
Colleagues threw meat towards the tiger in a desperate bid to distract the animal. But King was declared dead at the zoo.
Cambridgeshire Police said at no time did the animal escape from the enclosure and the incident is not believed to be suspicious.
Garry Chisholm, 59, a wildlife photographer who knew King, said in a Facebook post Rosa wasn’t just a keeper at Hamerton Zoo – she was Hamerton Zoo.
Zookeeper killed at #HamertonZoo – I can’t help but feel sorry for the beautiful animals, who didn’t ask to be enclosed in the first place!
— Vicky Bartlett (@bartlett_vicky) 29 mai 2017
“Her passion for the animals in her care was exceptional though her favourites were undoubtedly the cheetahs which she would refer to as her pride and joy.
“Rosa would raise money for cheetah conservation by actively taking part in parachute jumps and I was delighted when she approached me asking if she could use one of my pictures to promote her money raising campaign.”
Hamerton Zoo said its staff were too distressed to talk following the “freak” incident.
It said: “A full investigation is currently under way and we hope that more details can be announced as soon as possible. At no point during the incident did any animals escape their enclosures and at no point was public safety affected in any way.”