A pair of lions that mauled a female zookeeper inside an enclosure on the NSW South Coast will not be euthanised.
Jennifer Brown suffered serious head and neck injuries in what was described as an “extremely vicious” attack while she was cleaning the felines’ enclosure at Shoalhaven Zoo in Nowra last Friday.
The experienced zookeeper was airlifted to St George Hospital in a critical condition.
Shoalhaven Zoo owner Nicholas Schilko says Ms Brown is making good progress in her recovery.
“We’re staying in constant touch with our keeper … and her family, and are enormously relieved to report that she is recovering from lacerations that she received when visiting the lions’ den,” Mr Schilko said in a statement on Thursday.
Mr Schilko confirmed the two 18-month-old lions will not be euthanised and the welfare and care of Shoalhaven Zoo’s animals remain a priority.
“I can say that Jen knows these lions … very well and has a history of positive interaction with them,” he said.
“The keepers who went to her aid indicated that the two young lions showed no aggression, but it’s tragic that this interaction has resulted in serious lacerations to their keeper.”
The zoo launched an investigation immediately following the incident to figure out how Ms Brown had been injured and to review its safety and workplace health procedures, Mr Schilko said.
A SafeWork NSW investigation is also under way and the incident is being examined by the Department of Primary Industries.
“The zoo is fully assisting the SafeWork investigation to understand all the facts,” Mr Schilko said.
“We have a small and close-knit team at Shoalhaven Zoo and right now our priority is supporting their safety and wellbeing.
“We’d like to thank our staff, the responding agencies including paramedics and the wider zoo family who have rendered amazing support to the zoo at this time.”
NSW Ambulance duty operations manager Faye Stockmen last week described the attack as “absolutely harrowing”, adding it was frightening to be the first to walk into the lion’s den to treat the woman.
“This is one of the worst jobs I have ever experienced – I have never come across a job like this in my career,” Ms Stockmen said in a statement.
“The attack was extremely vicious and paramedics found the woman with severe injuries.”
It’s not the first animal attack at Shoalhaven Zoo.
In 2014, a crocodile dragged a male handler into the water during a school holiday feeding show. The man suffered a minor hand injury.