Lion kills man at Johannesburg Zoo
Published 14/02/2012 | 19:09
A MAN who worked at Johannesburg Zoo for nearly 40 years has been killed by one of the lions he looked after.
Joe Ramonetha, 63, had recently come out of retirement to continue working at a rural farm – which breeds animals for the city's zoo – because of staff shortages.
He was killed by a 10-year-old female white lion named Nyanga, meaning "witch doctor", after a gate was left open as he prepared the animals' food.
Zoo staff heard Mr Ramonetha screaming and rushed to help. He was bitten once on the neck and was already dead when he arrived in hospital.
The incident took place on Monday at Parys Zoo Farm in the Free State, around an hour and a half's drive from Johannesburg.
Louise Gordon, a spokeswoman for the zoo, said it had happened "so fast, like a car crash – you just don't expect it".
"He had been with us for so long and had an amazing bond with the animals," she said.
The lioness attacked Mr Ramonetha in a passageway which the creatures cannot normally access, suggesting a gate was left open, she added.
Afterwards, she was sedated with a tranquilliser dart and returned to her enclosure.
"There will be a full investigation and we will decide then what to do with Nyanga but it's clear that this was just an instinctive reaction on her part, perhaps because he tried to run away. She didn't take his body away like prey – she bit him once in the neck and that was it.
"It's just an unfortunate accident and devastating for all of us."