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.

  • Ken - 2012-02-14 22:56

    So sad. May he rest in peace.

  • Heidi - 2012-02-14 23:09

    Much sympathy to his family and friends

  • Annie - 2012-02-14 23:30

    May his dear soul rest in peace. Deepest sympathies to his loved ones. May this sort or thing NEVER happen again.

  • Sally Lewitt - 2012-02-15 00:34

    Ramonetha.. Rest In Peace. A thank you for 40 years of total dedication to our fellow felines! Condolences to your Family and Friend.. Rest Well..

  • Sally Lewitt - 2012-02-15 00:34

    Ramonetha.. Rest In Peace. A thank you for 40 years of total dedication to our fellow felines! Condolences to your Family and Friend.. Rest Well.. and be with the Spirit of the Great Heart..

  • mary.kircher - 2012-02-15 03:37

    what a dreadful death - many condolances to Joe's family and friends - God Bless.

  • milagros.vallejo - 2012-02-15 05:08

    May Ramonetha rest in peace..what a tragedy.

  • Tshivhombela Fhatuwani - 2012-02-15 05:12

    Someone who did not close the gates should be held accountable.

      KyleTheAssassin - 2012-02-15 06:28

      He didn't close the gate, his dead, can't hold him accountable!

      Tshivhombela Fhatuwani - 2012-02-15 07:49

      Can you direct where it was stated if the deceased was responsible for this human error?

      Mhlophe - 2012-02-15 09:30

      He has been held accountable, he's dead. So sad, RIP.

  • Brian - 2012-02-15 06:24

    Sympathy to friends and relatives. But WHY are there lions in captivity? No wild animal should be caged and enclosed. This is Africa - lions are a resident species and as such, should be in the bush where they belong, not in a zoo environment where stress and the close proximity of humans can, and does, cause problems.

      Leroy - 2012-02-15 08:22

      no bush remains, we have come to dominate the land and its creatures, sad hey!

      Safiyya - 2012-02-15 08:54

      I agree that animals in captivity is a moral dilemma. The morality of animals in captivity has been debated many times. The fact is many people will never get a chance to see most of these beautiful creatures if it weren't for zoos. While I personally dislike zoos and prefer nature reserves for thier size, the fact is that majority of people cannot afford to go to a nature reserve. Humans have put animals in enclosures for many reasons, sometimes in order to protect the animals but often its for entertainment value. The rhino should be allowed to roam free. Its a shame that we need to keep it in enclosure to protect it! A huge shame! Man is to blame for rhino's dying and keeping animals in captivity won't fix this problem. Finding the people responsible for the attacks and those who are in the market to purchase blood ivory will. Its a shame that a man died... I'm certain he cared deeply for all the animals (including the lioness). One has to care if one has been working with them for 40 years.

      yolie.Landa - 2012-02-15 09:51

      YOUR COMMENT IS FUNNY BRIAN. Imagine if the wild animals were to be in the bush, more and more ppl would be killed. They would really take over the land we are living in. This is a sad story though, my this man RIP and may the family and frnds find strength to accept what has already happened

  • Zonja - 2012-02-15 06:38

    Brian you're an adiot, no animals in captivity equals no animals, read what is happening to the Rhino that is roaming free!!

      Tevashnee - 2012-02-15 08:49

      Brian is an idiot? Zonja animals are not here for us to gawk at in captive zoos or game farms, they have the right to live free lives in the wild as intended. Yes many species are in danger of becoming extinct because of us the superior (moronic) species but that doesn’t meant that we need to lock them up in small enclosures behind electric fences! When you go to a zoo and see a polar bear is that a real wild animal living in its natural habitat, are you truly experiencing nature or the way of life of that creature? When are we going to open human zoos, heck ive never seen a real life Eskimo or Polynesian, why not capture a few stick them in a cage and we can pay to go ‘experience’ them?

  • Jeffrey - 2012-02-15 07:26

    Glad to see they're not holding the lioness accountable. Too often humans blame the animal for simply being an animal. In many countries, this would have resulted in the lioness being put down.

      Jamie - 2012-02-17 11:14

      Jeffrey, latest reports are that today they are deciding if they should kill the lioness or not, if they decide to kill her they will kill her tomorrow. We need to stop the JHB Zoo from deciding to kill her, email The more people that can email the better!

      NicoleVenter - 2012-02-19 19:21

      unfortunately Jeffery they are. there are talks in the investigation that they do want to put the lioness down. My Fellow animal lovers and I do not agree and are making a stand against the possibility of this precious animal being put down. I have it on good authority that this is indeed the case.

  • Trudy - 2012-02-15 08:58

    Human error? The man worked on the zoo for 40 years, safety measures and closing the gates would have been second nature to him. Something odd about this story. Can't quite put my figure on it. May he rest in peace.

      Gerhard - 2012-02-15 09:38

      Oh come now, there is no conspiracy here. I don't think the zoo put a hit out on the guy or something. Stop trying to look for something that is not there. How many drivers, pilots, electricians, mechanics, etc, etc have accidents for the first time after being on the job for many, many years? It's called an accident and a judgement error. Quite often because you have done something over and over again, you sometimes forget one thing in the process.

      Bruce - 2012-02-15 10:20

      Maybe a case of "familiarity breeds contempt". Nothing goes wrong for a long time, and people become careless, thinking it never will.

  • Mashudu - 2012-02-15 15:24


  • Cecilia - 2012-02-17 08:43

    They must donate this animal to a wild life preserve where she can`t harm any one. To the care taker`s family and friends, i am so sorry for your loss. GOD BLESS

  • vathorpe - 2012-02-17 09:10

    very sad... but these are wild animals... why do we want to kill them for doing what is natural to them.... why is she being punished for human error when it is humans that are keeping them in un-natural circumstances.. When are we EVER going to stop trying to play GOD !

  • Jamie - 2012-02-17 11:10

    The zoo is deciding today whether or not to kill the lioness that killed the worker, although my condolences go to his family and it was horrible accident, it is not fair to kill the lioness. The accident was human error and at the end of the day lions are wild animals - are you now going to punish them for their natural instincts?! If you are working with these animals, they are wild nontheless of how well they familiar with you and their temperment can turn at any time. They cannot kill this lioness and we as South Africans need confront the zoo and defend that lion who only acted on her instincts and with all due respect it was human error!! Zoo email: lets save this lioness!

      Nicky van Niekerk - 2013-03-06 07:23

      I agree with you Jamie. Who are we to play God over animals, yet people who kill get very little punishment! Wild animals are being just what they were attended to be, and that is wild. Rather focus on people who kill other innocent people and let God be the judge!

  • Elana Meyering - 2012-02-17 15:17

    Why are there so many people under the impression that a lion - a wild animal - can conspire against a certain human?? It is a lioness's NATURE to hunt!! The only one to be held accountable is the PERSON who left the gate open! (And by extension the zoo as a whole) We humans should stop blaming nature for our own mistakes..

  • NicoleVenter - 2012-02-19 19:25

    If this lioness is put down, I know for a fact there will be a very big issue. the public will not be happy at all and the protests will begin. This is a clear act against any form of Nature Conservation. I have deep sympathy for the families loss and may this man Rest in Peace. But an animal should never pay the price for being an animal nor for human negligence.

  • Jackie - 2012-06-01 10:52

    yadda yadda yadda

  • Colleen Williams - 2015-06-01 16:21

    Lions dont belong in zoo's! It is always human error when wild animals attack out of frustration and because they are wild and unpredictable! I believe they will decide tomorrow to kill the lioness!! What the hell did she do wrong - we humans are to blame for our stupidity and greed!!

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