Cape Town - A 12-year-old boy died after being mauled by lions in a cage at the Otavi Lion Park near Parys on Thursday morning.
Otavi manager Ina Human told News24 an employee had stolen the set of keys for the cage and had entered the enclosure together with the boy, who is the nephew of another staff member.
The attack took place shortly after 09:00.
"We have no idea why he would have gone in there. When the attack happened, the worker fled, and left the boy behind."
The child was retrieved and rushed to hospital. He died before they arrived.
"What happened it awful. Our rules [on accessing the cages] are very strict. It is terribly upsetting that something like this happened, especially to a child. He was a cute boy."
Human said the little victim was an orphan and lived with his uncle who works at the park.
"They are taking it very badly."
Police spokesperson Captain Livhuhani Hani confirmed that a case of culpable homicide was under investigation.
"We are still busy with the initial investigation, but arrests may soon follow," she said.