What was supposed to be a fun-filled day for a family visiting a big cat farm while on vacation became a nightmare as a lion attacked a child standing near the animal’s enclosure, according to reports.
Little Dina-Marie de Beer is fighting for her life after sustaining serious injuries while visiting the Weltvrede Lion Farm in Heilbron, South Africa, Sunday, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Peter de Beer was touring the grounds and had moved close to an enclosure’s fence with his 4-year-old daughter in his arms when a lioness stuck its claws through the barrier and came into contact with the child, the newspaper wrote.
The lioness clawed through Dina-Marie’s skull and scalped her while also grabbing hold of Peter, but he sustained non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said.
Dina-Marie was reportedly airlifted to Netcare Union Hospital in Alberton.
She underwent surgery Monday to have part of her skull removed to relieve pressure on her brain and she remains in critical condition in a medically induced coma, the Independent reported.
A tour guide who witnessed the attack said Peter and Dina-Marie “got a bit too close, the lion grabbed them through the fence.”
Weltevrede manager Charlene van Wyk characterized it as a “freak incident” to News24 and noted the farm’s rules say visitors should not stand too close to the fences.
New signs warning visitors that they “enter at own risk” have been put up at the farm since the attack, according to the Herald.
“The owner nor any of their representatives accepts any liability for any form of damage, loss, injury or death whatsoever,” the signs in part reportedly read.
It notes visitors should stay 1 meter away from all fences, children must remain under adult supervision, no running or screaming is allowed, no feeding animals is allowed and visitors must always listen to the tour guide.
“Keep in mind these are wild animals, by entering this private property you accept all our rules,” it continues.
Lionesses at the same farm attacked two girls in 2010.
One girl had bent down to pet a lion when an 8-month-old lioness jumped on her from behind and grabbed her ponytail, the Herald reported. Another lioness bit the girl’s sister while her mother carried the child on her hip.
“Sometimes they play a little rough,” the farm’s owner, Nico Roets, said of the animals, the Independent reported.