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12 Dec 2005 09:54
A lion bit off and apparently ate a woman’s finger at Melbourne Zoo, after she climbed over a barrier to pick flowers next to the animal’s enclosure, an official said on Monday.
The woman had scaled a 1m-high fence and was taking some agapanthus from next to the lion’s den when she was bitten by a young male on Thursday, zoo director John Gibbons told ABC radio.
The woman, aged in her 20s, is believed to have stuck her hand through a second, 5,4m-high fence surrounding the lions’ enclosure to pick the flower when the animal attacked, taking the top of her middle finger.
Gibbons said zoo staff were advised against searching for the missing digit, thought to have been eaten by the lion.
“We do ask all our patrons to stay behind the safety barriers here at the zoo and she explained at the time that she was picking some flowers,” he said. “It’s not a wise thing to do to climb over a safety barrier and collect a flower here at the zoo.”
There were no witnesses to the attack, which occurred after hours and after the woman had been asked to leave the zoo.
It is the second incident of its kind in a month at the zoo after a nine-year-old boy was clawed by a Persian leopard after he climbed a barrier while on a school excursion in November.
Electric fences will be installed inside the lion enclosure at the zoo to prevent further incidents.
The zoo said an animal attacking a visitor is still a very rare event.
“It’s very rare, we get over a million people here at the zoo… and these sorts of occurrences are very rare indeed,” Gibbons said.—Sapa-AFP
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