By Eliott Rodriguez

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Records show a full 17 minutes passed before first responders could safely reach a tiger attack victim at the Palm Beach Zoo earlier this month. She later died in the hospital.

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In an emergency like this one, minutes, even seconds, can mean the difference between life and death.

But in this case, paramedics spent precious minutes waiting for a tiger to be tranquilized before they could reach the animal’s victim. It’s a policy CBS4’s Eliott Rodriguez found out is much different at Zoo Miami.

“Okay, that’s going to be on the west side of the zoo.”

The call to West Palm Beach 911 was made at 1:55 p.m. on Friday, April 15th, when zookeeper Stacey Konwiser was attacked by a tiger inside an enclosure.

“We have a situation going on…there is a keeper that is injured…we need you to come to the west side of the zoo… we have people to direct you.”

“Do you know what kind of animal?

“Yes, mam it’s a tiger.”

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Paramedics arrived at 2 p.m. and police a minute later. But they both had to wait for zoo personnel to tranquilize the tiger.

Paramedics waited for the tranquilizer to take effect, getting to Konwiser 17 minutes after the initial call is made.

“There is no single animal life that’s more important than a human life,” Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill said.

Magill said the protocol at Zoo Miami is much different.

“At Zoo Miami, if we have an attack on a human being and anything is hindering our access to that person to render aid that hindrance is going to be eliminated as soon as possible. If that means shooting an animal, that’s the decision that’s got to be made,” he said.

Konwiser died at the hospital shortly after arrival, a neck injury listed as the cause of death.

Zoo Miami has never had to implement its kill policy.

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A zookeeper was killed by a tiger in 1994, but the tiger jumped into a moat, allowing rescuers to reach the victim, who had died of his injuries.

Eliott Rodriguez