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White Tiger Kills New Zealand Zookeeper

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A rare white tiger mauled its keeper to death in front of horrified tourists at a New Zealand wildlife park on Wednesday, then was killed after it refused to release the body.

The dead animal keeper, Dalu Mncube, was the second person attacked this year by one of the park's white tigers. Mncube himself helped rescue the employee mauled in February.

Mncube, a South African national, was attacked after he and a colleague entered the cage at Zion Wildlife Park on New Zealand's North Island to clean it, police spokeswoman Sarah Kennett said.

Mncube died before help could reach him, with serious injuries to his abdomen and lower legs.

"Despite the best efforts of the second keeper and a rapid response from other wildlife park staff, the tiger would not let the park worker go," Kennett said in a statement.

The animal _ one of only 120 white tigers in the world _ was killed, police inspector Paul Dimmery told National Radio. There was "nothing to indicate why it attacked _ but the fact is they're wild animals," Dimmery added.

The park's manager, Glen Holland, who was not there at the time, said Mncube was an experienced keeper and "fantastic with the cats."

Staff were called to the scene to help distressed staff and visitors, including eight foreign tourists who saw the attack, Kennett told The Associated Press. Their nationalities were not known.

The employee attacked in February, Demetri Price, required surgery after he was mauled. Price, who no longer works at the park, told TVOne's "Close Up" program Wednesday that Mncube "got the tiger off me" after he was bitten in the knee and "had a great ability with animals."

The park, located near the northern city of Whangarei, has 42 rare lions and tigers _ four of which are white tigers _ in large wire-cage enclosures that include trees and grassy areas.

Last year, a Scottish teenager was bitten by a white lion after she put her hands through a hole in the fence.

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On the Net:

http://www.zionwildlifegardens.co.nz

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