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Tiger Kills Keeper at Animal Park

November 13, 1994

LONDON (AP) _ A Siberian tiger mauled its keeper to death Sunday at a private zoo after the keeper climbed into the cage to clean it.

It was the fourth death in 14 years at animal parks run by a millionaire owner who has been praised by animal rights groups for encouraging physical closeness between keepers and animals.

Trevor Smith, 33, shouted and collapsed when the tiger leaped onto him and bit his neck as spectators watched at the Howletts park in Bekesbourne on Britain’s east coast.

The tiger, a male called Balkash, lay on top of Smith and had to be beaten away by another keeper.

A zoo statement said Smith had been close to Balkash and another tiger in the cage since they were cubs, and entered the enclosure voluntarily.

Howletts and other parks owned by millionaire John Aspinall have been the site of deaths and maulings of both keepers and visitors.

In 1980, a female tiger killed two keepers within one month. The tiger was put to death. An elephant crushed a keeper to death in 1984 at Port Lympne, another zoo owned by Aspinall.

A chimpanzee bit off the thumb and finger of a volunteer trainer at Port Lympne this year. The same chimpanzee ripped the arm off a 2-year-old boy in 1989 as the toddler tried to stroke the chimp.

Aspinall, a well-known casino owner, calls the zoo animals ″honored guests″ and encourages a close relationship with keepers.

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