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WEST PALM BEACH (CBSMiami/AP) — Palm Beach Zoo CEO Andrew Aiken’s voice quivered as he spoke about zookeeper Stacey Konwiser. She was killed by a Malayan tiger when she entered it’s pen.

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Aiken laid out a timeline of what happened — answering questions about why the tiger was tranquilized and not killed. Paramedics did not get to her for 17 minutes, while waiting for the animal to pass out.

“So we are clear, if this were the last animal of its kind and a human life were in danger, we would kill the animal if it were the right decision,” Aiken explained.

The guiding factor, he said, was safety.

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“The animal was within inches of Stacey’s body, including her head. And was “prey guarding,” which is a protective position tigers will assume over prey in the wild,” Aiken said. “If we were to shoot at the animal there was a chance we may hit Stacey.”

The enclosure itself made it more dangerous to use a bullet because it’s made of concrete and steel.

“We were concerned that if the shot missed, for example if the animal moved, or if the shot when through the animal, the projectile could ricochet and hit Stacey or someone else.”

Officials also said that Konwiser was filling in for another employee who called in sick that day.

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Ted Scouten