A man was mauled to death by a lion after he climbed into a zoo enclosure in Ghana in an apparent attempt to steal a cub. The incident took place on Sunday at the Accra Zoo.
The unnamed man, described as middle-aged, died within the inner fencing of the enclosure due to his injuries. According to the BBC, the zoo authorities believe that the suspect may have planned to steal two rare white lion cubs which have become a big draw since their birth in November 2021.
The officials said that the intruder was first spotted hopping a security fence at the zoo and making his way into a lion enclosure. A lion, a lioness and their two white cubs were inside at the time he entered the space. The adult lion pounced on the man as soon as it spotted him entering the enclosure.
“The lions have cubs so if you come too close they may feel you are trying to take away their babies,” Benito Owusu Bio, deputy minister for lands and natural resources in Ghana, said as per Newsweek. “We ask the public to desist from doing anything like this,” he added.
Following the attack, the man’s body was retrieved from the zoo and then taken to a local morgue. The Accra Zoo, on the other hand, was temporarily shut down to the public. Police opened an investigation to establish the motive of the man and the circumstances surrounding the attack.
The BBC reported that the intruder scaled a 10-foot fence before climbing over another 20-foot one to enter the enclosure.
White lions are considered sacred in some African cultures. They are heavily targeted by poachers for their value on illicit markets. According to the Global White Lion Protection Trust, only about a dozen white lions exist in the wild.
The cubs at Accra Zoo were born by breeding a male and female lion with recessive traits – called leucism – in order to produce the effect.