A zookeeper is feared dead after a white tiger mauled him Monday afternoon at a zoological park in the southwestern Japan city of Kagoshima, rescue workers said.

The 40-year-old zookeeper was found collapsed and bleeding from the neck in a cage by a colleague after the Hirakawa Zoological Park had closed for the day. He was unconscious and taken to hospital.

According to the zoo, there are four white tigers in the park. The tiger believed to have mauled the keeper had apparently already been sedated by a tranquillizer gun when rescue workers arrived at the scene.

Police are investigating how the zoological park looks after the white tigers.

The zoo, launched in 1972, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.