During an incident with a Sumatran tiger on April 20, 2019, a Zoo Keeper at the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center sustained injuries and is currently recovering at a local Topeka hospital. The injured keeper is 40 year-old Kristyn Hayden-Ortega. Kristyn began working with the Topeka Zoo on July 30, 2001.
Kristyn is a passionate and dedicated individual in this field. She has taught and mentored many other zookeepers, educators, interns, and volunteers into becoming ambassadors for animals of all species. Whether training a tiger for a semen collection, a voluntary ultrasound, or working with an African painted dog to allow the use of a stethoscope to listen to his heart, she is very determined which allows her to approach obstacles with a realistic, but also “we’ll try it” outlook. She has a great sense of humor and is a great problem solver.
During Kristyn’s tenure at the zoo:
- She began her employment at the zoo in the zoo’s education department where she helped implement a state wide Safari Edventure Day program. She also made several trips to Paraguay to work with maned wolves and train zoo keepers in South America.
- After transferring to the zoo’s Animal Care Department in 2009, she developed a passion for working with a number of different animals including African painted dogs and Sumatran tigers.
- She is the zoo’s Institutional Representative to and sits on the steering committee of the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan Steering Committee.
- She recently presented at a conference in Texas on training techniques to enhance reproduction in Sumatran tigers.
- She has traveled to Thailand to work with Asian elephants.
- She was involved with the original release of black-footed ferrets into the Kansas landscape.
- She is the current president of the Topeka Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers.
Kristyn is a highly valued member of our team. She is full of passion and performs great work. It is still uncertain when she will leave the hospital but a full recovery is expected.
Kristyn’s family would like to thank everyone who has sent prayers and well-wishes. At the same time, Kristyn’s family has experienced a traumatic event and needs time to process that. They have asked for privacy and hope the media and public can respect that.