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Topeka Zoo names keeper attacked by tiger

Eric Adler, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The zookeeper who was attacked Saturday by a tiger at the Topeka Zoo, injured with lacerations and puncture wounds to her head, back and neck, was identified Tuesday as Kristyn Hayden-Ortega.

Hayden-Ortega was not present at a 9 a.m. news conference at the zoo. Still hospitalized, Hayden-Ortega had been in the intensive care unit of a local hospital, but now is in a general hospital room and is doing well.

The conference was held by Zoo Director Brendan Wiley. He said that he had yet to talk to Hayden-Ortega, but had been communicating with her through her husband. Hayden-Ortega, 40, is said to have a 3-year-old son.

"She is not ready to see me," Wiley said. "That is perfectly fine. Completely respect that."

He said that "her family has been through a traumatic experience" and that the family has requested some privacy.

"We're kind of a family here and our practice is to grant those requests," Wiley said.


Hayden-Ortega, who has been at the zoo since 2002, was described as a leader at the zoo and one of the park's most experienced zookeepers. She is the president the Topeka chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers.

On April 20, at about 9:15 a.m., shortly after the zoo opened, Hayden-Ortega was attacked by the zoo's 7-year-old male Sumatran tiger, Sanjiv, who was under her care. Later that day, Wiley confirmed that she had been severely injured and sent to the intensive care unit of a local hospital after sustaining "lacerations and punctures to the back of the head, neck, back and one of her arms."

Wiley said Hayden-Ortega had been in the same area as the tiger, although he did not expressly blame the zookeeper for the incident.

"They're definitely not supposed to be in the same area at the same time," Wiley had said. The zoo is conducting its own internal investigation.


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