03/28/2013 11:07 EDT | Updated 05/28/2013 05:12 EDT

Quebec Zookeeper Attacked By Tiger

The Quebec zookeeper who was attacked by a Siberian tiger at a Lac-St-Jean area zoo this morning is expected to live.

“Right now he's at the hospital. His life is not in danger,” said Christine Gagnon, the zoo’s director of conservation and education.

“We are really lucky for that.”

The 51-year-old man was cleaning the inside of the enclosure before 9 a.m. Thursday when a female tiger at the St-Félicien wild zoo attacked him.

He sustained injuries to his neck but was conscious when he was rushed by ambulance to the hospital in Roberval, about 25 minutes south of St-Félicien.

Normally, the zoo’s Siberian tigers — two males, one female and two cubs — are kept in their nighttime enclosure while their daytime pen is cleaned.

The zoo is investigating why that wasn’t the case this morning, and are waiting to speak with the zookeeper, who was the only witness.

"We're trying to understand how this happened. Right now our main focus is towards the employee and his family, obviously, and also for the rest of the employees that are quite disturbed by the event,” Gagnon said.

Paramedics were able to attend to the victim after the tiger left the area on its own.

Zoo officials said the tiger was put into an isolation pen, and is not expected to be put down.

Quebec's workplace health and safety investigators are looking into the incident.

The zoo specializes in North American animals. But in 2009, it bought three Siberian (or Amur) tigers.

The zoo takes a natural approach to its animal habitats and attempts to recreate their natural topography, even allowing some species to cohabit as they would in the wild.

Siberian tigers are found in the wild in eastern Russia and parts of China and North Korea.

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