Zookeeper critical after being bitten on head, neck by lion


A female zoo keeper is fighting for life after being bitten multiple times by two lions in an "extremely vicious" attack at a zoo on the New South Wales south coast.

Two ambulance crews and a specialist medical team had to "walk into a lion's den" to treat the injured woman at Shoalhaven Zoo in North Nowra.

An ambulance spokesman told news.com.au they were called just before 10.20am to treat the victim "bitten on the head and neck region" following reports of an "animal attack".

Police said the 35-year-old woman was attacked by two lions while cleaning the enclosure.

In an update on Friday afternoon, NSW Ambulance said the keeper had "a number of lacerations and bites".

She was taken by ambulance to meet a helicopter and then flown to St George Hospital in a critical but stable condition.


"This is one of the worst jobs I have ever experienced - I have never come across a job like this in my career," Inspector Faye Stockman said.

"It was absolutely harrowing.

"It is an incredibly dangerous situation, both for the patient and the paramedics.

"Being the first to walk into the enclosure was one of the most frightening experiences - we literally had to walk into a lion's den.

"The attack was extremely vicious and paramedics found the woman with severe injuries.

"We are trained to deal with extreme or unusual situations, however, we do have support services available to us."


Lions at Shoalhaven Zoo. Picture: Facebook
Lions at Shoalhaven Zoo. Picture: Facebook


Police earlier said they were called to the zoo on Rockhill Rd just before 10.30am "following reports a zoo keeper had been attacked by a lion" and was suffering "serious head and neck injuries".

NSW Ambulance earlier told the South Coast Register crews were responding to reports of an "unconscious zoo keeper in the lion enclosure".

A spokeswoman for the zoo told news.com.au no comment was being made about the situation at this time.

South Coast Police District officers have established a crime scene and are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident.

SafeWork NSW was also notified.


A lion at the North Nowra zoo. Picture: Facebook/Shoalhaven Zoo
A lion at the North Nowra zoo. Picture: Facebook/Shoalhaven Zoo


According to its Facebook page, the family owned and operated Shoalhaven Zoo has been closed since March 25 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"While we are closed to the public we as a family will continue to live onsite and have key staff coming in to help us ensure the safety and wellbeing, cleaning and feeding of all our animals," the post reads.

"We value our staff and it has been heart wrenching to stand down some staff. Stay safe everyone! Thank you for all your support and we look forward to seeing you all back at the zoo soon."

During normal operation, the zoo offers a lion feeding encounter with its "Roarsome Foursome" pride of white lions including "the King of the Savannah".

In July 2014, keeper Trent Burton was dragged into the water by a 3.7m crocodile during a lunchtime feeding demonstration at the zoo.

Audience members screamed as the crocodile latched onto his hand and slammed him into the enclosure fence before he managed to escape the ordeal.


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