The family of a keeper killed by a tiger at Hamilton Zoo have remembered her as a kind person who liked “intelligent humour” and a “passionate conservationist”.
Samantha Kudeweh, 43, died following following a fatal attack on Sunday by one of the zoo’s Sumatran tigers, Oz. She leaves behind husband Richard and children Billy, 9, and Sage, 3.
Speaking on behalf of the family Samantha’s colleague, Catherine Nichols, said the extended Kudeweh family wanted to thank the public and the global zoo and conservation community for their messages of support over the past 24 hours.
Kudeweh, who had more than 20 years experience in the zoo and conservation sector, was recognised and respected globally as a talented, passionate and highly knowledgeable professional whose expertise and understanding of animals was highly sought after.
Her role as curator at Hamilton Zoo made her second-in-charge to the zoo director, and she was responsible for the management of the animals and acquisitions of new animal exhibits.
Kudeweh had dreamed of being a zoo keeper since she was a teenager.
“She was a volunteer at Auckland Zoo for a number of years before joining the staff,” Nichols said.
Kudeweh grew up in Papakura, southeast of Auckland city, and studied at Canterbury’s Lincoln University and Auckland University toward a Bachelor of Science.
She worked at Auckland Zoo for several years, before a shift to Zoos Victoria in 2002. During her stay in Melbourne she met Richard Kudeweh, another zoo professional who she would go on to marry.
In 2005, Samantha and Richard moved to Hamilton Zoo, where she started as the mammals team leader. In 2011 she was promoted to zoo curator, achieving one of her professional dreams. It gave her the opportunity to become involved in a number of species management programme, an area of conservation which she had a passion for.
She was responsible for managing breeding programmes for a number of species, including the white Rhino, and was able to influence the zoo sector across Australasia.
Nichols said the zoo was a “crucial part of Sam’s life, second only to her family”.
She appreciated what Richard called “intelligent humour”, and loved the people around her and those she worked alongside.