Zookeepers have spoken of their shock after a lioness suffocated the father of her three cubs in a brutal and unexpected attack in their enclosure.
Staff members were injured as they tried to rescue ten-year-old male Nyack from his mate, Zuri, 12, after she clamped her jaws around his neck.
The two lions had lived in the same enclosure at Indianapolis Zoo for eight years, and had three cubs together in 2015. No aggression had ever been observed between the pair prior the attack, which is “not fully understood by zoo staff”, reports Reuters.
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Employees reported hearing “an unusual amount of roaring” from the lion enclosure last Monday, before finding Zuri holding Nyack by the neck “until he stopped moving”.
“We know many people loved visiting Nyack. He was a magnificent male lion and left his legacy in his three cubs,” the zoo said in a statement.
David Hagan, the zoo’s curator, added: “They [the staff] build strong bonds with the animals so any loss affects us all greatly. For a lot of us, it’s just like a family member.”
The lioness had been on extended loan from San Diego Zoo as part of an ongoing “species survival plan” organised by the US Association of Zoos and Aquariums, according to The Guardian.
Indianapolis Zoo said the incident would be subject to an investigation, but added that no changes would be made to how the lions are managed and housed.
The BBC reports that lionesses “often attack lions in the wild and such incidents have been filmed at safari parks”, including in the UK.
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