Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Brother of mauled keeper wants change

Dalu Mncube. Photo / File
Dalu Mncube. Photo / File

The brother of Dalu Mncube, who was fatally mauled by a tiger at Zion Wildlife Gardens in Northland, hopes a coroner's inquest recommends better prevention and protection measures for zookeepers.

Fortune Shumba said he could not attend the inquest, which starts today in Whangarei, but he wanted something positive to come from the death of his 26-year-old sibling.

The big-cat handler was killed in May 2009 when he was grabbed while cleaning the enclosure of a Bengal white tiger at the Whangarei park.

He left behind fiancee Sharon Arnott and their 1-year-old daughter Starskea, and a 7-year-old son in Africa from a previous relationship.

"I just hope it will prevent future accidents happening," Mr Shumba said. "We don't want anyone else to go through what we went through and what Dalu himself went through.

"We hope it will bring closure for everyone."

He said Mr Mncube, who had three months earlier forced the same tiger - Abu - to let go of another keeper, would not have wanted the animal destroyed.

"I just hope they work out a proper system to protect people and the cats because no one really knows what's going on in these cats' minds."

Mr Shumba also wanted better planning and insurance for zookeepers after he had to raise money to fly Mr Mncube's body home to Zimbabwe for burial.

"There needs to be an insurance system so if something like that happens they know what to do and how to help out rather than the family running around being the ones trying to source funds for burial."

He said it was only through the generosity of Whangarei residents and a businessman, and the help of staff at the park, that they were able to get his brother home.

Mr Mncube grew up in Hwange National Park, the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe. Mr Shumba recalled: "We used to bottle-feed these lions. The cats were his babies."

He said Mr Mncube's partner was a "strong lady" who had coped as well as she could with the tragedy.

The Government's labour service prosecuted Zion for "failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees while at work".

Last December, the company was ordered to pay $60,000 in reparation to Ms Arnott.

- NZ Herald

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