The zoo where a keeper was killed after a tiger entered the enclosure she was in had reportedly been told to improve its emergency communications.
Rosa King, 34, died after a “freak accident” at Hamerton Zoo Park in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, on Monday.
The Telegraph said the zoo had been criticised following an inspection in 2013 - which ordered the owners to “review and replace ageing safety barriers where the structural integrity of the barrier is compromised”.
The report, quoted in the paper, added: “Inspectors consider that reliance on mobiles to communicate in an emergency is not sufficient and the system needs to be upgraded to ensure that all relevant staff can be contacted simultaneously.”
The zoo owners were also tasked with tailoring escape procedures to the various risks posed by animals at the zoo.
Hamerton Zoo Park is yet to respond to the claims made in the newspaper’s report.
King, who had worked at the zoo for about 14 years, “always loved” her job, her mother, Andrea, said, adding that she “wouldn’t have done anything else, it’s what she has always done, it’s what she has always loved.”
Friends described King as “inspirational” and said she enjoyed working with her “beloved cats”.
Police were called to the zoo at 11.15am on Monday to reports of a serious incident and an air ambulance was on the scene within 20 minutes.
Visitors were evacuated from the attraction shortly before midday but witnesses have told of hearing a “blood-curdling scream” as staff tried to distract the big cat with meat in an effort to save the zookeeper.
Cambridgeshire Constabulary said the tiger had not been killed and was unharmed following concerns that the animal might be euthanised.
Tracey Eyre, a friend of King, told the Daily Mirror: “She wouldn’t want the tiger to be destroyed, I know for a fact she wouldn’t.”
Eyre’s husband Steve, 57, added: “She said it wasn’t fair for anything to happen to the tiger, because its not the tiger’s fault.”
The gates to the attraction, which is in a rural lane surrounded by open fields, were locked on Tuesday morning as an investigation continues.
The zoo said what happened to King appeared to have been a “freak accident”.
It said: “At no point during the incident did any animals escape their enclosures and at no point was public safety affected in any way.
“All our thoughts and sympathies are with our colleagues, friends and families at this dreadful time.”
The zoo is home to about 500 animals including monkeys, cheetahs, raccoons, sloth and tigers.
Wildlife expert Steve Backshall said that tigers are solitary animals who live and hunt alone in the wild, adding that small enclosures may cause “artificial stresses” for the large cats.
“In the wild, they’ll have enormous home ranges and rarely come into contact with other tigers,” he told the BBC.
“And in captivity, quite often they’ll be kept in relatively small enclosures with other tigers, and there’s no doubt that could cause artificial stresses within those enclosed populations.”
It is not yet known how large the tiger’s enclosure at Hamerton Zoo was, or how many animals lived there.
Wildlife photographer Garry Chisholm paid tribute to King on his Facebook page saying he was “deeply saddened” to hear of her death.
“Rosa wasn’t just a keeper at Hamerton Zoo – she was Hamerton Zoo,” he wrote.
“Her passion for the animals in her care was exceptional though her favourites were undoubtedly the cheetahs which she would refer to as her pride and joy.”
Chisholm said he was privileged to have known King, adding that she would be “greatly missed”.
Philip Caso, a 20-year-old zoology student from Peterborough, got to know King through doing work experience at the zoo each summer and commended her conservation efforts.
In a tribute on Facebook he wrote: “I’m literally devastated to hear that one of the most inspirational women I knew died at Hamerton Zoo.
“Rosa loved and respected those animals to the point where each and every one was like a child to her. Her passion for her job has really inspired me and I was just glad I got the chance to know her. Thinking of all the other keepers.”
Photographer Hollie Gordon, who said she became friends with King through visits to the zoo, said: “Her passion for the animals, the zoo and conservation really shone through. She loved them all!”
The 24-year-old, from Blackpool, added: “I am in shock by what has happened. Terribly upset and can’t quite believe I won’t see her again with a big smile on her face and working with her beloved cats.”
The case has been referred to Cambridgeshire Coroner’s Office where a spokesman said an inquest would be opened next week.