A South African wildlife park has come under criticisms after a 12-year-old boy was killed by lions on its premises on Thursday after he was led into the animal enclosure by a worker.
The incident occurred at the Otavi Wildlife Park in Parys, Free State Province. The boy killed by lions, who is reportedly an orphan, has been identified as Nkalemelo Latha, according to The Times. He is said to be the nephew of a supervisor at the Otavi Wildlife Park named David, who adopted him this year.
The boy was attacked by lions after a worker at the park, identified as Rasta, took him into the two-hectare lion enclosure at 9 a.m.
In a statement posted on Facebook, park owner Louis Pulzone revealed that Rasta is a “General Worker” at the park who gained “unauthorized access” to the keys of the lion’s enclosure and led the boy into it. Rasta has been working at the park for six months, according to The Telegraph. It is unclear why he decided to take the boy into the animal enclosure.
Pulzone said Rasta and Nkalemelo walked for about 60 meters in the enclosure before they were attacked by lions.
Ina Human, a manager at Otavi, told News24 that Rasta fled and left the boy behind after he was attacked by lions.
“We have no idea why he would have gone in there,” she said.
However, Rasta told the police that he was also attacked as he tried to get help when the lions started mauling the boy, The Telegraph reported.
Pulzone said David drove into the enclosure with a truck and was able to scare off the lions. However, the boy was found unconscious with bite marks on his head and neck. He died as he was being rushed to the hospital.
“A 12-year-old boy lost his life due to an adult’s stupidity, a true tragedy,” Pulzone said.
“We have to live with the consequences that we could not prevent this employee from stealing keys out of the office and thus gained access to the enclosure.”
The death of the 12-year-old boy at the hands of the lions has sparked a debate about canned hunting and animal breeding at animal sanctuaries across the country. Questions have also been raised about safety at these facilities.
This is not the first death at a wildlife park in South Africa this year. In February, an employee at a wildlife park in KwaZulu-Natal province was killed by a lion as he went to turn on a water pump at a river, Fox News reported. The lion was reportedly sick and unable to hunt for wildlife at the time it attacked the man.
Also, in June last year, Game of Thrones video editor Katherine Chappell was killed by lions at a wildlife park in Johannesburg, the Mirror reported.
Following the death of the boy at the Otavi Wildlife Sanctuary, animal charity group Four Paws released a statement on Facebook condemning Otavi’s practices.
“Otavi openly offers captive bred lions for sale. A true sanctuary will not sell cubs, as all the animals should be sterilized to prevent breeding,” Four Paws said. “A sanctuary would also not allow any interaction between the animals and their workers or the general public, and have safety measures in place.”
Pulzone, who slammed Four Paws’ criticisms of his establishment, said the management of Otavi takes the “utmost precautions to prevent any tragedies.”
“In the two years we have owned the farm there has never been breeding of any kind of animal for personal gain and the focus is to create a proper educational experience for people who would not have had the opportunity otherwise,” he stated.
According to The Times, the police are investigating the death of the boy killed by lions and Rasta could be charged with homicide.
[Photo by Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo]