The zoo where a tiger mauled a keeper to death was warned of ageing barriers and inadequate escape procedures four years ago – according to documents.
Rosa King, 34, tragically died at the scene after being attacked in front of her distraught colleagues at Hamerton Zoo park near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, yesterday.
Claims that the zoo was previously heavily criticised by officials following an inspection in 2013 have now emerged.
Documents seen by The Telegraph reportedly say the zoo’s escape procedures were not tailored to the specific risk posed by different animals.
The papers also reportedly showed the communications system the zoo had in place for dealing with emergencies was not sufficient and needed to be upgraded.
Concerns were allegedly raised about Hamerton Zoo’s ‘ageing safety barriers’ while the inspectors also ordered the zoo to review and repair damaged perimeter fencing where the ‘structural integrity of the fence was compromised’.
It is believed that the improvements were made in order for Hamerton Zoo to have been issued with a new licence to operate.
However director for animal welfare at the wildlife charity Born Free Foundation Chris Draper told the Telegraph the inspection document raised questions about how the zoo was run.
This emerged after animal welfare expert Pete Wedderburn claimed the “freak accident” would have unfolded in less than half a minute – and may have come to an end in just 10 or 20 seconds.
He said in a case like yesterday’s attack, there would have been “no time for a tranquiliser to have any effect whatsoever”.
Mr Wedderburn, from Ireland, claimed: “The whole sequence of events would be less than half a minute.
“By the time they [staff] realised a crisis was happening it would have all been over… it’s very, very sad.”
It is believed the victim may have run into the tigers’ enclosure in a desperate bid to help a colleague when she was attacked by the tiger.
Bank Holiday visitors described hearing a “blood-curdling scream” before seeing distraught employees holding their heads in their hands.
Emergency services were called to the park at around 11.15am yesterday following reports of a “serious incident”.
A Magpas air ambulance was on the scene 20 minutes later and visitors were evacuated from the attraction just before midday.
An East of England Ambulance Service paramedic crew and two rapid response vehicles also attended the site of the horrifying attack.
More than 24 hours on from the tragedy, a number of questions remain unanswered, including exactly how the incident unfolded.
Today, Rosa’s grief-stricken mum, Andrea King, described how her daughter had been working in her dream job, saying she “wouldn’t have done anything else.”
“It’s what she has always done, it’s what she has always loved,” she added.
The zoo said in a statement: “At no point during the incident did any animals escape their enclosures and at no point was public safety affected in any way. All our thoughts and sympathies are with our colleagues, friends and families at this dreadful time.”
A Cambridgeshire Police spokesperson said: “A tiger had entered an enclosure with a keeper. Sadly the female keeper died at the scene.
“At no time did the animal escape from the enclosure.
“The incident is not believed to be suspicious.”
The force also said the tiger had not been killed and was unharmed after the attack.
The zoo remains closed and a full investigation is under way.