Veteran zookeeper mauled to death by lioness

TOKYO, Sep 29 (News On Japan) - A veteran male zookeeper has died after being mauled by a lion during feeding time at a safari park in northern Japan.

The fire department received a report at around 3:30 PM on Thursday (Sep 28) from the Tohoku Safari Park in Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture, that "a male zookeeper has collapsed inside the lion enclosure."

Kenichi Kato, a 53-year-old veteran animal keeper with 27 years of experience who was responsible for caring for the lions, was found collapsed inside the lion's den with bite marks all over his body, and bleeding from the neck. Kato was taken to hospital where he was later confirmed dead.

According to Tohoku Safari Park, the lion that attacked Kato was a female. During the day, lions are allowed to roam freely in their designated area, and after the last admission at 3:30 PM, the keepers enter the enclosure to feed them.

There is a work area for keepers in front of the lion enclosure, with an iron door double-locked with a padlock and a chain. Normally, after a keeper places food in the enclosure and locks the door, the lion enters from the opposite side, ensuring that keepers and lions are never in the same space.

It is believed that the door was left open for some reason, leading to the attack. Surveillance cameras captured the lion dragging the keeper into the enclosure.

Tohoku Safari Park has announced that it will be temporarily closed.