Controversy-plagued big cat park Zion Wildlife Gardens is in the news once again after a tiger mauled another to death.

The death has prompted a ferocious response by fans of the Whangarei wildlife park's founder, Craig Busch, who want him reinstated.

The female Bengal tiger, Sita, was killed by a male tiger she had been placed with to mate.

The park has never been far from the headlines since Busch's mother Patricia took over after bailing him out financially. Busch's battle to regain control is headed for the High Court.

Last year, keeper Dalu Mncube was fatally mauled by a tiger, and charges have been laid over the death. After the latest incident the park said all protocols had been followed and the attack was "uncharacteristic".

Busch has attracted more than 56,000 fans to his Facebook page, with many calling for him to be put back in charge. But, even under Busch's care, the park made the news with many cats having been controversially declawed.

Debi Holden summed up the sentiment of her fellow fans in her posting: "When is someone gonna realise that the only man for the job is Craig!! have all the cats gotta die first?"

Another, Lisa Frecknall, wrote: "Enough is enough, put Craig back with his cats!!! He needs them and by god do they need him!!! Get the amateurs out of ZWG and Craig back where he belongs!!! RIP SITA."

In a statement the park said: "The team at Zion know that this is the way of the wild but a death is always difficult to come to terms with. There have been deaths, young and old, over the years and it is never easy."

The Ministry of Agriculture was advised of Sita's death on Wednesday but is not investigating. It said there had been no breaches of containment or animal welfare standards and requirements.