Topeka Zoo identifies keeper in tiger attack


TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Topeka Zoo identified the keeper a tiger critically injured over Easter weekend.

Zoo Director Brendan Wiley said Tuesday at a 9 a.m. press conference that Kristyn Hayden-Ortega continues to recover at a local hospital and a full recovery is expected. Kristyn’s family would like to thank everyone who has sent prayers and well-wishes.

The zoo’s male Sumatran tiger, Sanjiv, attacked Hayden-Ortega inside the tiger’s enclosure Saturday morning.

Wiley said the zoo is investigating how the two were inside the enclosure at the same time. They were confident in the enclosure’s security when they put the tigers back inside the same day as the attack, but need to hear from Hayden-Ortega to confirm what led to the attack.

He previously said Sanjiv was following instinct when something is in his territory, and there are no plans to euthanize the critically endangered tiger.

Kristyn’s tenure at the zoo:

  • She began her employment at the zoo in 2001 in the zoo’s education department where she helped implement a state wide Safari Edventure Day program. She also made several trips to Paraguay to work with maned wolves and train zoo keepers in South America.
  • After transferring to the zoo’s Animal Care Department in 2009, she developed a passion for working with a number of different animals including African painted dogs and Sumatran tigers.
  • She is the zoo’s Institutional Representative to and sits on the steering committee of the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan Steering Committee.
  • She recently presented at a conference in Texas on training techniques to enhance reproduction in Sumatran tigers.
  • She has traveled to Thailand to work with Asian elephants.
  • She was involved with the original release of black-footed ferrets into the Kansas landscape.
  • She is the current president of the Topeka Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers.

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