The fatal attack occurred at a popular wildlife park in South Africa on Monday.
Lion Park spokesman Andre La Cock said that the female visitor was “taking photographs of the lions from a short distance away,” with the windows of her vehicle fully open. Visitors are prohibited from opening vehicle windows in the park, writes Abby Ohlheiser for The Washington Post.
Unidentified woman killed by lion
The woman was attacked through the window of the vehicle, and sadly died from her injuries. La Cock said that the park “will operate as normal” following the attack, and will not be closed. As well as the death of the female visitor, a tour guide was also injured in the attack.
“The park is not closed and it is not closing,” said assistant operations manager Scott Simpson. “We have closed off where the incident happened, so those lions won’t be seeing the public until we have had an investigation and we know what exactly happened.”
Lt. Col. Lungelo Dlamini, a spokesman for Gauteng police, confirmed to The Washington Post that “police have opened a case of inquest for investigation” into the attack. He also confirmed that a male tour guide was injured.
Authorities have not identified the deceased tourist. The U.S. Embassy in South Africa confirmed that the victim was a U.S. citizen but did not reveal her identity “out of respect for the privacy of the family.”
Tour guide injured as he fought lion
“According to witnesses a lioness then began slowly walking towards the vehicle,” in which the woman was sitting in the passenger’s sear, said La Cock. “The lady was taking pictures of this lion which then stopped about a meter or two away from the vehicle. Witnesses state that the lady still had her window fully open at this point when the lion lunged towards the car.”
La Cock said that the lioness will not be put down and will remain in the care of the park. The lion has since been moved to another property away from visitors.
Park officials said that the tour guide was driving the vehicle, and “tried to fend off the lion.” He sustained injuries trying to do so. Other staff, located at the entrance to the lion enclosure, immediately ran over to the vehicle and scared the lion off.
Although an ambulance attended the scene within minutes, the visitor died as paramedics treated her. The guide was hospitalized but his injuries were not life-threatening.
Multiple safety warnings ignored
The deceased ignored multiple safety warnings telling visitors to keep their windows closed. La Cock said that the park has “many signs that clearly state that all windows and doors should be closed and locked at all times.”
A leaflet is distributed to visitors “explaining that it is imperative that windows and doors are kept locked and closed at all times” on their way into the enclosure, La Cock said. “Lions are predators and these animals should be handled and treated with great respect.”
Lion Park expressed its “deepest sympathies and sincere condolences to the family and friends for their loss,” and sent its wishes for a “full recovery” to the tour guide.
The park is located just outside of Johannesburg, and South Africa’s official tourism site says that it is one of the area’s “best-known attractions,” which is “a kind of hybrid between a zoo and a game reserve.”
Recent spate of attacks at Lion Park
The park has seen three attacks in only four months, according to NY Daily News. In March an Australian tourist was hospitalized after a lion bit his legs. Simpson claims that the man had been outside of his vehicle taking photos when the attack occurred.
The man later uploaded graphic images of his injuries to Facebook, alongside a caption which read: “Pretty full-on but am alive, with insurance coming to the party and an influx of curious Africans wanting to see the lion man.”
Two days later a 13-year-old boy was attacked by a cheetah as he rode his bicycle through the park, using it as a shortcut. Various celebrities have visited the park, such as Shakira and John Legend.
“The average visitor has no idea how powerful these large predators are,” said Graham Kerley, director of the Centre for African Conservation Ecology, in an interview with the Telegraph. “The reason we are so enthralled by them is that we have this instinctive feeling of how dangerous they are and yet we get so close to them.
“We become complacent because we think they are big tame animals but they are not domestic animals.”