Experienced keeper says big cat will likely be shifted overseas.

An experienced big cat keeper who had worked with the woman killed in a tiger attack at Hamilton Zoo thinks the animal should be moved overseas.

The zoo's male Sumatran tiger, Oz, fatally attacked the zoo curator and mother-of-two Samantha Kudeweh, 43, on Sunday morning. Her husband, Richard, also works at the zoo and the couple were part of a tight-knit group of colleagues.

Todd Barclay, who had worked with Mrs Kudeweh when she was based at Auckland Zoo and had previously worked with the male tiger, was perplexed as to what went wrong.

"I always found Sam to be extremely competent and I can't work out what would have happened here."

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Sam Kudeweh with a male Sumatran tiger at Auckland Zoo. Photo / Doug Sherring
Sam Kudeweh with a male Sumatran tiger at Auckland Zoo. Photo / Doug Sherring

He said there was a "two gate rule" that separated keepers from the animals.

"The one thing that is always drummed into us is that these animals are not domesticated, you can take the animal out of the wild but you can't take the wild out of the animal."

He said it was likely the big cat, who he remembered as a "beautiful animal", would be moved overseas.

"I am not sure if they will keep him in New Zealand - it's going to be so hard for her family and workmates to walk past an animal every day that has that reputation.

"They will have to give it a new home."

At present the tiger had been "contained" and three investigations were under way, by WorkSafe, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the zoo, into what had happened.

So far the zoo has not released any details about how the tiger got close enough to fatally injure Mrs Kudeweh.

However, Hamilton City Council's general manager community, Lance Vervoort, confirmed Oz would not be euthanised.

Oz the Sumatran tiger at Auckland Zoo. Photo / Doug Sherring
Oz the Sumatran tiger at Auckland Zoo. Photo / Doug Sherring

"Oz is a significant animal for his species," he said. "He is the father of our two cubs, and he is vital to the ongoing breeding programme to conserve this rare species."

Mr Vervoort said the widely held view among zoo professionals was that Oz's attack on Mrs Kudeweh was in line with his natural instincts.

Nevertheless, a partner at employment law firm Dundas Street, Blair Scotland, said the zoo could face big fines and hefty reparation payments if found culpable in the fatal tiger attack.

"Employers have an obligation to provide their employees with a safe working environment," he said.

"The fact that something as tragic as this has occurred would tend to indicate the employer has fallen down in respect to these obligations."

While Mr Scotland said criminal charges were unlikely, there was a "fairly high" chance the employer could be found to have breached the Health and Safety in Employment Act - unless it could prove that the employee had failed to follow proper procedure.

He said it was unlikely to be ruled just a freak accident.

Samantha was fatally attacked by a tiger at Hamilton Zoo yesterday. Photo / Supplied
Samantha was fatally attacked by a tiger at Hamilton Zoo yesterday. Photo / Supplied

"A big animal like this is a pretty quantifiable hazard ... you know if you are going to be in the cage there is more than a reasonable prospect that you will get attacked.

"It's not an unforeseen event."

Mr Scotland said key questions that needed to be addressed would be whether the zoo's processes and practices were up to scratch and whether it had taken all practicable steps to ensure Mrs Kudeweh's safety.

If found to have breached the act the zoo could be ordered to pay fines and reparations of up to $250,000.

Hamilton Zoo will remain closed until Thursday as investigations into the mauling continue.

Mr Vervoort, said the zoo would not comment on its tiger management procedures until all investigations were complete.

"We're firmly focused on supporting Samantha's family, the zoo team, and making sure we conduct thorough and complete investigations into this tragic incident."

Speaking on behalf of Mrs Kudeweh's family, colleague Catherine Nichols thanked the public and the global zoo and conservation community for their messages of support.

"The zoo was a crucial part of Samantha's life, second only to her family."

- additional reporting Morgan Tait