A CLEANER at the Singapore Zoo who jumped into the white tiger enclosure yesterday was killed by the animals as a horrified crowd looked on helplessly.
According to eyewitnesses, Mr Nordin, who was seen shouting and flinging items about shortly before the incident, vaulted a low wall and landed in a moat in the enclosure, four metres below.
Carrying a yellow pail and a broom, he then crossed the 1.75m-deep moat, walked up to a rocky ledge near where the animals were and began agitating them by swinging the broom.
As two of the tigers approached him, he covered his head with the pail, lay down on the ground, and curled himself into a foetal position, two eyewitnesses, an Australian couple, told police. Their identities were withheld pending investigations.
In a flash, two of the extremely rare white tigers were on him. One took a swipe at him with its paw - which is about the size of a softball glove - and he began screaming in pain, said another eyewitness, Dutch tourist W. R. de Boer.
He said many in the crowd of 30 or so onlookers at the enclosure initially thought the intrusion was part of a show.
But when Mr Nordin began screaming, they reacted with horror.
'Some were screaming: 'Go away' to the tigers and others were shouting to scare the tigers,' he said.
About 20 keepers arrived within minutes. Some tried to prevent the attack from continuing by throwing brooms and dustbin covers, while the rest ushered the shocked onlookers away.
Also deployed were two zookeepers armed with rifles and live ammunition, but these were not used, said the zoo's assistant director of zoology, Mr Biswajit Guha.
Despite the efforts of the keepers, one tiger continued attacking Mr Nordin for several minutes, the zoo said in a statement yesterday.
It only relented after a door to the tigers' feeding area was opened. The animals retreated to it, leaving the cleaner motionless on the ground.
Once the tigers were in the feeding area, the door separating it from the rest of the enclosure was closed, and keepers were able to reach the cleaner.
It was too late, however. Mr Nordin, who hails from Sarawak, had been bitten on the neck and suffered a fractured skull. He died before police arrived.