A lion at the Dallas Zoo killed a lioness on Sunday afternoon in front of dozens of zoo visitors.
“A 5-year-old lioness, Johari, died today at the Dallas Zoo after being bitten in the neck by a male lion in her pride,” the zoo announced on its website.
“At first you think they’re playing, and then you realize he’s killing her, and you’re watching it and you just can’t believe your eyes,” witness Michael Henshaw told WFAA.
“The male lion that started it just had his mouth over her throat, and everyone thought they were playing at first,” witness Jim Harvey told WFAA. ‘But then they could see she was struggling.”
“[The lion] just lay beside her and held her by the neck for like 10 minutes… just holding it there, waiting until it quit moving,” Dylan Parker told WFAA.
The pride consisted of 2 males and 3 females, all born in captivity, and they had lived together in the Giants of the Savanna exhibit since it opened in 2010. Zoo staff are still trying to figure out why the attack happened.
“This is a very rare and unfortunate occurrence. In my 35 years as a veterinarian in zoos, I’ve never seen this happen.” said veterinarian Lynn Kramer, the zoo’s vice president of animal operations and welfare.
The exhibit was quickly closed after the attack and the 2 males were separated from the rest of the pride. They will be allowed back into the exhibit later this week.
Veterinarians at the Dallas Zoo performed a necropsy that same day and concluded Johari’s cause of death was suffocation.
The zoo remembered Johari: “Johari was a favorite of the zoo staff, who are heartbroken over the loss. ‘Jo-Jo,’ as the keepers called her, was very playful, always one of the first to find new surprises in the habitat, like pumpkins or watermelons. She was sweet and loving with her sisters, and often could be found grooming them.”