The American Woman Killed On Safari Was Attacked At Lion Park, A Popular South African Tourist Destination
While touring a South African safari on Monday, an American woman was killed by a lioness after it attacked her car. According to the Associated Press, the woman was reportedly taking a driving tour through Lion Park, a popular wildlife enclosure near Johannesburg, when the lioness lunged at the vehicle. A park official said the woman had the windows to the car rolled down, which is how the attack turned deadly.
Scott Simpson, Lion Park assistant operations manager, told the AP the park has strict rules about the car windows, which tourists should follow at all times while driving through the park.
"They had their windows all the way down, which is strictly against policy," Simpson told the AP. "The lion bit the lady through the window."
An official statement from Lion Park, posted Tuesday on the park's Facebook page, emphasizes its security policies:
We have many signs that clearly state that all windows and doors should be closed and locked at all times. Furthermore, visitors and tour operators are stopped by a member of staff before entering the first lion enclosure where they are handed a leaflet explaining that it is imperative that windows and doors are kept locked and closed at all times. Lions are predators and these animals should be handled and treated with great respect.
The fatal attack occurred when the lioness stalked up to the side of the car as the woman took pictures, witnesses said, according to the Lion Park statement. The lioness paused one or two meters from the car, and the American tourist continued to take photographs with the car window down, according to the park.
The tour operator driving the vehicle attempted to fight the lioness, and was injured in the process. "Our camp staff based at the gate of the enclosure immediately rushed to the vehicle and chased the lion away," Lion Park officials said in the statement, adding that the park also had paramedics on hand to treat the woman.
The American woman has not been identified in the media, but the U.S. Embassy in South Africa confirmed the attack late on Monday. "We can confirm that a U.S. Citizens [sic] was killed at the Lion Park in Johannesburg yesterday," the United States Embassy South Africa tweeted. The embassy said it will not release the names of the American citizen out of respect for the family's privacy.
Lion Park will stay open as officials investigate the tragic encounter. NBC News reports that park officials have cordoned the area where the lion attack occurred, but the park is "open as usual" to tourists. Park officials also said they would not euthanize the lioness.
Located just outside Johannesburg in Gauteng province, claims it provides "super close-up animal views." Like its name promises, Lion Park has more than 80 lions living within the enclosure. There's also a separate area for antelope and zebras.
"We offer a unique experience where tourists can drive through our lion enclosures either in our guided game drive trucks or in their own vehicles, safety is always our first priority," the wildlife park said Tuesday. "It is incredibly sad that a life had to be lost in this manner – visitors to South Africa need to remember that predators are dangerous and rules are there for their own safety."
Images: Getty Images, Lion Park/Facebook