Zookeeper mauled to death by lion as he tried to lure beast back into its cave with food

A veteran zookeeper was mauled to death by a lion when he attempted to lure it into a cave for its lunch.

Kenichi Kato had been feeding the big cat at Tohoku Safari Park when he is feared to have forgotten to lock the cage separating man from beast.

He was found bleeding badly from his neck where the lion had grabbed him by its powerful jaws. He was rushed to hospital but later died from his wounds.

The 53-year-old had worked at the popular zoo in the Fukushima region of Japan for 27 years. It is unknown how he made the error leading to his tragic death.

A spokesman for the zoo said: “’The process is we open the door, and place the food. Once the food is placed, the door is to be closed and locked.

“We deeply apologise to Mr. Kato and his family. We regard this extremely seriously. We will take measures to prevent similar accidents.” The zoo is said to be remaining shut for the next few days as a result of the tragedy.

Last year a keeper in a private zoo was mauled to death when he tried to pet a tiger during feeding time. Horrific footage of the attack – filmed in Periban, western Mexico – showed the keeper calling out to the big cat to get over to a chain link fence.

But as he started to stroke the tiger’s neck, the big cat’s mood changes and it sinks its claws into the keeper’s right hand. As the keeper – named as Jose de Jesus, 23, screams in agony, the tiger pulls his hand towards its jaws and razor-sharp teeth.

A second gruesome video shows a huge pool of blood on the ground. De Jesus was rushed to hospital but refused to allow medics to amputate his mauled hand. Doctors told local media that complications set in and de Jesus – who was a diabetic – died from a massive heart attack.

Victim Kenichi Kato was found bleeding from his neck and died in hospital (Image: Tohoku Safari Park)
Victim Kenichi Kato was found bleeding from his neck and died in hospital (Image: Tohoku Safari Park)

The grim video footage was reportedly released by the owner of the animals who kept them in a private zoo to show that the keeper had been negligent. The tiger’s owner said he had paid the medical bills for the man and added that he had all the necessary permits.

Local media reported it was being checked whether the owner of the tigers had permission from the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) to keep the animals. It was reported he also keeps a lion and a crocodile at the same site.

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This article by Antony Thrower was first published by The Mirror on 29 September 2023. Lead Image: The zoo has apologised to the victim’s family ( Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto).

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