South African police are investigating allegations of culpable homicide against a park worker who is reported to have led a 12-year-old orphan into a lion enclosure.
Nkalemelo Latha was killed after being savaged by the lions at the Otavi Wildlife Sanctuary in Parys, Free State province, The Times reported.
The worker, whose name was given as “Rasta” is alleged to have stolen a set of keys, opened the enclosure and led the boy inside.
Staff at the park heard screaming and rushed to the child’s aid. One drove a pickup truck into the enclosure to chase the two white lions away.
But it was to no avail. The child was found lying unconscious on the ground having been bitten on his head and neck; he died shortly afterwards.
Rasta, who worked at the park for six months, is reported to have told the police that he tried to get help after the lioness attacked the boy and he was also mauled.
“I can’t understand why this man decided to steal the keys to get into the enclosure,” said Ina Human, the park manager.
Louis Pulzone, the owner of the sanctuary, wrote on Facebook : “Otavi takes the utmost precautions to prevent any tragedies from happening; yesterday was a truly a tragic day for us and we will mourn the death of this boy for years to come.
“We have to live with the consequences that we could not prevent this employee from stealing keys out of the office and thus gained access to the enclosure. Our hearts go out to every employee and family member, and our prayers are with them.”