A coroner has recommended that the Government look at new regulations surrounding the operations of zoos and animal parks after a big cat handler was mauled to death at Whangarei's Zion Wildlife Gardens.
Dalubuhle Ncube, also known as Clifford Dalu MnCube, died after being mauled by a male tiger named Abu after he and fellow handler Martin Ferreira had entered its enclosure to clean it on May 27, 2009.
After holding an inquest into the death in June this year, Northland Coroner Brandt Shortland today released his formal findings.
Mr Shortland said the inquest had illustrated the complexity of the legislative framework and regulatory bodies required to work with parks like Zion and others, with three different legislations and various bodies involved.
"It is complex and difficult,"; Mr Shortland said.
"Evidence provided by Dr Barry Ward and Howard Hamilton (a specialist advisors from the Ministry of Primary Industries) suggested in my view a realignment or reconsideration of the regulatory framework in making the workings of the law a lot easier to administer and comply with. What is required is a better inter-agency alignment.
"As Dr Ward submitted the Biosecurity Act and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act are proactively enforced while the Animal Welfare Act and Health and Safety in Employment Act are reactively enforced."
He also endorsed the review of the zoo industry guidelines in that zoos or parks like Zion should be required to comply with guidelines covering relevant aspects of containment, animal welfare, and health and safety prior to receiving approval to hold and display animals and that this be proactively audited on a regular basis.
"Regulatory reform should be considered on a number of levels from changes to existing legislation to potentially forming new legislation," MR Shortland said.
"At the inquest it was submitted (zoo industry stakeholders) believed the previous legislation, prior to the HANSO Act, the Zoological Gardens REgulations 1997 (repealed in July 2003) was more effective in managing risks because it dealt with containment, animal welfare and health and safety under one umbrella."'
Mr Shortland found that Dalu dies when he was attacked by Abu in his enclosure, with the cause of death a combination of asphyxia/suffocation and from the results of the wounds inflicted by the big cat.
The coroner also praised the efforts of Mr Ferreira to stop the attack, putting his own life at risk to try to get Abu off Dalu.
"Mr Ferreira tried desperately to get Abu to release Mr MnCube by punching and hitting him whilst at the same time trying to keep the female tiger, Rewa, away from the unfolding incident," he said.
"It was an extremely brave action by Mr Ferreira having no thought for his own safety."
The fatal attack was also witnessed by a group of tourists at the park.