The lion farm where a little girl’s scalp was ripped off last week has put the blame for such incidents squarely on visitors who “don’t listen”, Sunday newspaper Rapport reported.
The 4-year-old girl was in a critical condition after being attacked by a lioness at Weltevrede Lion Farm in Heilbron on Sunday, May 12, News24reported.
A part of Dina-Marie de Beer’s skull was removed the following day to relieve pressure on her brain.
According to Netwerk24, Dina-Marie was in her father’s arms when they were attacked through the fence of a bordering camp.
The juvenile lioness reportedly got hold of her father, Pieter, who sustained minor injuries, but Dina-Marie’s scalp was ripped off and her skull was penetrated by the lion’s claw.
Another visitor, Lewis de Jager, sustained minor injuries when he, too, was attacked through a fence while holding his daughter a few days before the attack on Dina-Marie.
A picture on Facebook shows De Jager holding his daughter with the lion behind them, a split-second before pouncing.
The owner of Weltevrede, Nico Roets, told Rapport that visitors are constantly warned about the dangers, but that they “don’t listen”.
‘They think a lion is a toy’
“We warn them, but they still think a lion is a toy,” Roets reportedly said.
Charlene van Wyk, the lion farm’s manager, told Rapport that representatives of the Department of Environmental Affairs visited the farm on Tuesday and could find nothing wrong [with its security measures].
“None of our permits were withdrawn,” Van Wyk reportedly said.
“The guide who accompanied De Beer warned him twice that the lion was behind him,” Roets reportedly said.
“Too many people take cellphone picture and don’t keep an eye on the animals. These are wild animals and can hurt you.”
Many warning signs
On Wednesday, Weltevrede posted more than 10 pictures of warning signs on its property on its Facebook page. “Please remember, these are wild animals,” one reads. Another states, in Afrikaans: “STOP. Premises entered at own risk. Do you want to go ahead?”
Late on Sunday, the lion farm posted the following message: “We would like to inform that we [are] no longer going to give any comments to the media, due to [the fact] that the truth gets turned into sensation to sell more newspapers.
“Our prayers go out to [Dina-Marie] and her family [who were affected] by the incident. We wish her well and hope for a full recovery.”
In January 2010, two sisters were attacked by lionesses at the Weltevrede Lion Farm, Sapa reported at the time.
The youngest girl bent down to pet one of the lions, when an 8-month-old lioness jumped on her from behind and got hold of her ponytail.
Another lioness bit the older sister on her buttocks while her mother was carrying her on her hip. The children were reportedly treated for light injuries at the Midvaal Hospital in Vereeniging.
Weltevrede Lion Farm is the same location where a video of a hyena cackling with joy while being tickled that went viral on social media, was recorded in 2016, Business Insider reported.
In April, 55-year-old Pieter Nortjé was severely injured when he was bitten on the arm while trying to stroke a lioness at a lodge in Virginia, Free State, Netwerk24 reported.
In May last year, a lion that attacked its owner at a private game reserve near Thabazimbi in Limpopo was shot dead, News24 reported.
Michael Hodge, 72, the owner of Marakele Predator Centre “bottle raised” the lion, Shamba since birth. Hodge broke his jaw and sustained injuries to his neck during the attack.
In February last year, a 22-year-old woman was attacked and mauled to death by a lion at the Dinokeng Game Reserve in Hammanskraal, News24 reported.