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Tiger attack turns spotlight on wildlife park -

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PETER CAVE: A wildlife park in New Zealand is being investigated after a keeper was fatally mauled
by a white Bengal tiger. Tourists who witnessed yesterday's attack are still being questioned by
police and some have been receiving counselling.

Zion Wildlife Gardens has been making the news a lot lately. It's the third attack in a year and a
bitter dispute has also been raging between the owners - a mother and her son.

The son is a television star known locally as the "Lion Man", and today he's being criticised for
encouraging a hands-on approach to dealing with big cats.

New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie reports.

KERRI RITCHIE: Dalu Mncube was the most experienced lion and tiger handler at Zion Wildlife
Gardens. He was only 26 years old, but he was known around the park as "granddad of the big cats."

The South African was killed as he cleaned out an enclosure with another keeper.

Dalu Mncube had hand reared many of the park's lions and tigers. A few months ago he bravely fought
off the same white tiger which killed him when it attacked a colleague. He pulled its jaw open and
sprayed the animal with a fire extinguisher. He had this to say when he was interviewed afterwards.

DALU MNCUBE: We are always safety conscious at all times but actually we can always do better, you
always do better in life.

KERRI RITCHIE: Many New Zealanders don't like Zion Wildlife Gardens. It's about three hours' drive
north of Auckland and it's home to 40 lions and tigers. Some of the animals pace up and down along
the fences.

Local resident Wayne Richard says a fatal attack was only a matter of time.

WAYNE RICHARD: I have rung up the council on numerous occasions and we just don't seem to be
getting anywhere. They just don't seem to be listening. And I hope someone becomes accountable for
what has happened.

KERRI RITCHIE: Craig Busch used to be the boss of the park. He's famous in New Zealand because he
had his own TV show called "Lion Man".

(Excerpt from TV show):

CRAIG BUSCH: These guys are pretty full on. You go play with each other, not us, okay? You're too
rough.

Okay, let's go get Azra and then we'll have triple trouble. How does that sound?

(End of excerpt)

KERRI RITCHIE: But Mr Busch hasn't worked for the business for months. His licence was cancelled
when concerns were raised about animal welfare and overcrowding. He was then sacked by his own
mother who appointed a new manager.

Mr Busch had been in court in Auckland this week challenging his dismissal. He released a statement
saying the keeper's death is a terrible personal blow because they were good friends.

Ian Adams is the animal collection manager at Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch.

IAN ADAMS: I actually didn't believe it when I was told that someone had been killed. It is pretty
rare.

KERRI RITCHIE: He says there have been no close calls at his park because no-one gets too close to
the animals.

IAN ADAMS: The tiger didn't do anything wrong. They're a predator animal. There's somebody in its
enclosure. Even though things were going alright at the time there's always the potential, there's
that unknown as you never know when it's going to go bad for you.

KERRI RITCHIE: He says tourists have their photos taken with white tigers on the Gold Coast, which
is just too risky. He says there needs to be a set of standards.

IAN ADAMS: Not only do they, are they putting themselves as a, there's the animal situation as well
and if there's more than one of them in there there's, you know there's potential to get really big
and you know it just gets so bad.

KERRI RITCHIE: Glen Holland is the new manager of Zion Wildlife Gardens.

GLEN HOLLAND: What we've managed to achieve, the protocols that we've put in place, thank heavens
were in place yesterday. We've run emergency drills which had never been done before. All of the
staff carried out their roles according to what they should have done in an emergency drill. There
was back up on hand. All the safety equipment was on hand very quickly.

KERRI RITCHIE: The tiger, named Abu, was the keeper's favourite. It was shot dead straight after
the attack.

There are only about 140 white Bengal tigers left in the world. The future of the wildlife park and
the future of the rest of the big cats is unclear.

This is Kerri Ritchie in Auckland reporting for "The World Today".