Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire confirmed that a lioness died on 1 January after a ‘rare but natural’ incident where it was attacked by another lion.
Wed, 4 January 2023 at 11:57 am GMT
A lioness ‘died almost instantly’ when it was attacked by another lion in front of horrified guests at a safari park on New Year’s Day.
Longleat Safari Park said the keepers were unable to save the lioness from its injuries after what it described as a rare but natural incident.
The park confirmed that the incident took place on 1 January 2023.
Guests at Longleat, in Wiltshire, reported being diverted away from the lion enclosure due to an unknown major incident.
One wrote on social media that they were held up in the enclosure and could see a lioness not moving on the floor, injured.
A spokesperson for Longleat has now confirmed that the lioness was attacked by another of the animals in her enclosure.
The spokesperson said: “This weekend (1 January 2023) saw one of the lionesses at Longleat sadly killed by another lion.
“This kind of incident is very rare but can naturally occur amongst apex predators.
“It happened incredibly quickly, with the lioness dying almost instantly.
“Our professional keepers were immediately on the scene, however the timescales involved meant there was no possibility of intervention. There was no risk to guests.”
Longleat has two prides of lions at the park and is described by some as one of the world’s best African lion exhibits.
In 2016, it described how its pride of 28 lions had “naturally divided into two distinct social groups” due to the fact that in the wild cubs spilt off to form their own pride
At the time it said that as part of our the safari park’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the lion enclosure had been redeveloped to allow the lions more room to roam around the new six-and-a-half hectare enclosure.
The improvements, part of a £1.5m investment programme, also meant the lions were given free access to their indoor and outdoor areas throughout the day and night, making Longleat one of the first zoological collections in Europe to provide round-the-clock outdoor access to its big cats.
In 2014, the park came under fire over claims it had destroyed a number of lions because of an increase in pregnancies.
In a statement, the park said there had been a 40% increase in pregnancies which had led to “excessive violent behaviour”, putting 21 of the lions at risk.
It added: “Sadly one lion, Henry, had to be put down earlier this year due to injuries from an attack within the enclosure. The further lions referred to were put down due to associated and severe health risks.
“Following these incidents, five lions from this enclosure are to be moved to other premises.
“Longleat takes the utmost care in trying to protect the welfare and safety of all our animals.”