Two lions have been shot dead after they attacked a man who had climbed into their enclosure at Santiago Zoo, Chile. The 20-year-old man had entered the enclosure in a bid to commit suicide. He remains in a grave condition at a nearby hospital.
The man, named locally as Franco Luis Ferrada Roman, stripped naked and jumped into the enclosure on Saturday morning, in full view of distressed zoo visitors, including a number of children. The lions immediately pounced on Roman, and zoo staff were forced to fatally shoot the animal.
According to local news, a suicide note was found inside the man’s pocket. The note was said to refer to an incoming apocalypse as the reason for the man attempting to take his own life. A zoo worker later confirmed that a note was found.
The director of the zoo, Alejandra Montalva, released the following statement:
“We believe that this person entered as a visitor and paid for his ticket. Later he trespassed into an area where the public are not normally allowed and we understand that he forced the roof of the lion’s enclosure. It was from there that he jumped, took off his clothes and started to attract the lions. The zoo has an established protocol because people’s lives are very important to us.”
Montalva added that she was ‘deeply affected’ by the deaths of the two lions, but that there were no fast-acting tranquilizers available to stop the lions from attacking the man.
A number of witnesses have since spoken to the media. Cynthia Vasquez, told a Chilean radio station that zoo workers weren’t quick enough in reacting to the incident. She claims that the animals did not attack the man as soon as he entered the enclosure.
“He entered the enclosure from above and the lions started to play with him, and then after they attacked him,” she said, before adding that the man was “shouting things about Jesus.”
A father who was visiting the zoo with his young son, told a news channel: ‘Everyone started screaming when they saw him.’ Another witness added: ‘There were a lot of children there, and parents covered their eyes while it was going on.’
Although he remains in a grave condition, the man is said to no longer be in a life-threatening condition. Dr Sebastian Ugarde, a hospital spokesman, told the media that though he was stable, Roman’s heart had stopped after the attack. However he also added:
“He suffered several injuries and trauma to the head and the pelvic area. We have high hopes that he will recover and that he will be fine.”