Zoo points to 'human error' in lion attack

2012-02-14 22:36

Johannesburg - Human error led to the death of a Johannesburg Zoo employee who was attacked by a lion at the Rietkuil conservation farm in Parys, officials said on Tuesday.

Monday's attack at the Free State farm apparently occurred after gates at the lion's den were left open, said spokesperson Letta Madlala.

"This was due to apparent human error," she said. It's believed Joe Ramonetha, 63, had been feeding the animals or cleaning the enclosure when the 11-year-old lioness attacked him.

"He was dedicated and much loved. The staff mourns the loss of a zoo family member and he will be missed," said Madlala.

Ramonetha had worked for the zoo for nearly 40 years. Madlala said the lioness was detained in the night room facility and later sedated.

"The animal showed no undue aggression towards any other humans during the process," she said.

There had not been a fatal animal attack at the zoo in 50 years

Madlala said it was unusual for animals to attack employees while on their routine duty.

"Lions at the Parys farm are kept in secure enclosures with clear separation between staff and any visitors and the animals. There is also an electric fence in place," she said.

"Employees are trained to keep all gates closed on entering the facility, then let the lions out into the outside camp area, secure the entrances to the night rooms and passage before any work starts."

Steps were underway to review the risk profile of employees with a view of placing more measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

Madlala said arrangements were made for employees to be counselled for shock. Johannesburg Zoo CEO Stephen van der Spuy said a full investigation was launched jointly with the police on Monday.

He said management would give the necessary help to the Ramonetha's family.

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