Big Cat Attacks

Big Cat Attacks Chart 2015

These big cat attack stories are from 1919-2018.  There are so many that they won’t all fit on one page.

Big Cat Killings, Maulings & Escapes 2010 & Before

For an Excel sheet of incidents by state, by year, by species and by country go HERE

Click to see the killings, maulings and escapes by big cats by total for each state  for  less detail, but numbers updated through 2014 

See a list of all of the known tigers in USDA facilities in America. Note that no one knows how many are in backyards and basements of private owners who are not required to be licensed by USDA.  See an interactive online map of tiger owners.

Tigers In America Map 2014

Big Cat Attacks

The following is a partial listing (775) of incidents in the U.S. involving captive exotic cats since 1990.  The U.S. incidents have resulted in the deaths of 25 humans, 20 adults and 5 children, the additional mauling of 268 more adults and children, 287 escapes, the killing of 150 big cats, and 133 confiscations. There have also been 348 big cat incidents outside the U.S. that have resulted in the deaths of 111 humans and the mauling of 186 humans by captive big cats.  These figures only represent the headlines that Big Cat Rescue has been able to track.  Because there is no reporting agency that keeps such records the actual numbers are certainly much higher.

The Journal of Internal Medicine in 2006 estimated that 50 million people worldwide have been infected with zoonotic diseases in the past 6 years and as many as 78,000 have died. Read more about zoonotic diseases here:

Mauled by a Privately Owned Exotic Pet Who Escaped
Mauled by a Privately Owned Exotic Pet Who Escaped

To see the number of exotic cats abandoned each year check out that section of our most recent Annual Report.

The U.S. represents less than 5% of the entire global population, but up through 2006 79% of ALL captive cat incidents occurred in the U.S.  (Now that the US is clamping down on the exotic pet trade, the reports in 2007 show a decline in U.S. incidents compared to the rest of the world)  Likewise, Florida represents less than 6% of the U.S. population while 12% of all U.S. incidents occur in Florida.  Florida boasts the most comprehensive sets of regulations allowing private ownership of exotic cats while ranking #1 in the highest numbers of big cat killings, maulings and escapes. To view photos of fatal injuries from cases reported in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine click

For more images of people who have been mauled by cougars open this Word Document It appears that many attacks on humans by “wild” mountain lions are really just escaped or released pets.

Yearly Maulings Killings and Escapes by Big Cats


Sept 10, 2019 New Delhi:  ‘Unwell And Distressed’ Tiger Attacks Zoo Keeper, Keeper Loses Finger.  Fateh Singh was on a night shift and had gone to fill the tiger’s water bowl. The tiger swooped down on him from inside the cage.

Sept 5, 2019 Russia:  Police began an investigation after a woman was mauled by a circus lion outside the tent.  The woman, identified as 25-year-old Alyona, had visited the circus along with her four-year-old daughter. During an act, the woman left her daughter to watch the show and stepped outside the tent for a smoke. While wandering close to the lion’s cage, the animal attacked her through the bars, leaving her with severe injuries to the head. The exact date of the incident was not known.

Aug 26, 2019 Thailand:  A family went to the leopard’s pen to take pictures, but the grandfather opened the door to the big cat’s pen – sparking desperate scenes when the six-year-old leopard Tony burst out and pounced on the two year old child.    The man was reportedly expecting the leopard to have been calm in order for the tourists to have their pictures taken with it.  The boy, named Orr Burns, suffered a fractured cheek bone in the attack.  He was later pictured with blood pouring from wounds on his face.

Aug 20, 2019 South Africa:  Leon van Biljon was killed by his pet lions at the Mahala View Lion Lodge.  Leon van Biljon was widely known as “The Lion Man” because he would walk into the cages with adult lions.  It was always just a matter of time.

July 5, 2019 Italy:  Ettore Weber, 61; one of the world’s most famous tiger tamers has been mauled to death by his four big cats as he prepared for a show at a circus in Italy.  The Circo Orfei – Italy’s best-known circus – in the countryside near Bari.  Weber was rehearsing for his act when one of the tigers knocked him down before the other three pounced on him and mauled him to death.

June 24, 2019 IL:  A mother and child were attacked by a caracal, after it escaped from a home.  The caracal was walking along a sidewalk when it attacked the child, then the mother when she intervened.   The big cat lunged at police and animal control officers, who shot the cat.

June 21, 2019 NC:  Rocky, an escaped African serval was spotted this week on a farm in southeast Virginia, about 160 miles from the North Carolina home he fled in October.

May 13, 2019 S. Africa:  A 4-year-old girl is in a critical condition after being attacked by a lioness, who ripped off her scalp, at Weltevrede Lion Farm in Heilbron owned by Nico Roets. A part of Dina-Marie de Beer’s skull was reportedly removed to relieve pressure on her brain and she is being kept in an induced coma. Another man sustained minor injuries when he was reportedly attacked through a fence at the same farm on Wednesday last week.  In January 2010 two sisters were attacked by lionesses at the Weltevrede Lion Farm.

May 4, 2019 Berlin, Germany:   Two lions attacked a zookeeper in a German wildlife park leaving the 24-year-old man in serious condition.  The attendant had entered the animals’ enclosure.

Apr 20, 2019 Topeka Zoo, KS:  Employee Kristyn Hayden-Ortega, who has been with the Topeka Zoo since 2001, was nearly mauled to death by a male tiger named Sanjiv.  They were in the “same space” when the incident occurred due to human error, but the zoo is refusing to elaborate on how that happened.  Photos show Ortega handling wild animals at the zoo. Several visitors witnessed the attack.

Apr 10, 2019 Africa: At the Tikwe River Lodge, a game lodge in Virginia, Free State Province, Pieter Nortje said, ‘Come here lovey, let daddy stroke you’ while waving his arm through the fence.  The lioness then proceeds to sink her teeth into Pieter’s forearm, biting him down to the bone. Peter is pulled towards the fence, with the lioness slashing at his arm with her claws.

Apr 5, 2019 Hamburg, Germany:  Two lions attack zookeeper near Hamburg.  It unclear why the young zookeeper entered the enclosure during feeding time. The zoo supervisor said it was a “miracle” that the employee had survived after being mauled and repeatedly bitten by two male lions at the Serengeti Zoo.  The zookeeper entered the lion enclosure as the animals were feeding on the meat left out for them. It was not immediately clear why the man had done so, but preliminary information indicates he was likely trying to complete a routine fence check. The zoo in Hodenhagen in Lower Saxony also caught attention five years ago, when a lioness tried to attack a safari bus used to ferry visitors through the compound, breaking one of the windows. A family sustained slight injuries due to broken glass.

Mar 9, 2019 AZ:  A jaguar attacked a 30 year old woman at the Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park, leaving her with injuries that required medical attention.  The guest crossed over the barrier to get a photo and was attacked by a female jaguar.  Adam Wilkerson said he was at the zoo with his family when someone came running around the corner yelling for help.  “I saw the other girl up against the fence with her arm caught in the jaguar’s claws.”  Wilkerson said he was standing behind the woman, but didn’t want to pull her off. “I could see the claws in her actual flesh,” he said.  “When my mom put the water bottle through the gate, the jaguar let go of the girl. And we pulled the girl back and she collapsed,” he said.  There were no employees nearby during the incident, Wilkerson said.

Mar 5 2019 Zdechov Czech Republic:  33 year old Michal Prasek was mauled to death by a 9 year old lion he raised from a cub.  Mr Prasek’s father found his body in the lion’s cage and told local media it had been locked from the inside.  The lions – living in separate pens – were shot dead by police called to the scene.
Mr Prasek, 33, bought the lion in 2016 and the lioness last year, and kept them both in home-made enclosures in his back yard in the village of Zdechov.   Prasek made headlines last summer after a cyclist collided with the lioness as he was taking her for a walk on a leash.

Feb 15 N’Djamena: Four children and their teacher were injured when a leopard roamed into their primary school in a rare attack in Chad.  Five people were hurt when the big cat entered an army colonel’s house.  It then headed to the school where the other injuries occurred.  The leopard was a “domestic animal” owned by an army official, said residents in the Amsinene area in the capital N’Djamena.  Security forces killed the leopard after it wandered close to a military base.

Jan 1, 2019 Parkland, FL:  A 60 pound male cougar jumped a backyard fence and after spooking neighbors was tranquilized and removed by the FWC.  The big cat wore a black collar, not an electronic tracking collar, leading wildlife officers to believe it may be an escaped pet. It had no other identifying markers.  Investigators are treating it as “an escaped, illegally possessed captive animal,” said Rob Klepper, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.  Big Cat Rescue offered placement in an accredited facility, but the FWC said they had already made other arrangements.


Ukraine Circus in 2018:  Members of the audience at a circus in Ukraine captured the terrifying moment a lion turned on its trainer and attacked him. The incident took place at the Lugansk State Circus when an aggressive big cat managed to overpower well-known circus trainer Hamada Kouta.  See the video.

Dec 29, 2018 NC:  The Conservators Center in Burlington, North Carolina said that a husbandry team was cleaning the enclosure when the attack took place.  “One of the lions somehow left a locked space and entered the space the humans were in and quickly killed one person.”  Alexandra Black, a 22-year-old recent graduate of Indiana University, had been an intern at the Conservators Center in Burlington for only 10 days before being killed by a lion named Matthai.  The 14 year old lion was born at the facility in 2004. He was euthanized by first responders so that they could retrieve the intern’s body.

Dec 24, 2018 Reggio Calabria: A 25-year-old Georgian was badly injured by a tiger after breaking into the cage at the Lidia Togni circus. The man was said to be under the influence of drugs. Doctors had to amputate his arm.

Oct 23, 2018 England: The door to the enclosure was left open through keeper error and  8 year old snow leopard Margaash was shot to death after escaping.  “Efforts to persuade Margaash to return to his enclosure failed and as the animal was close to surrounding woodland and dark was approaching, the vet did not believe a tranquiliser dart was a safe option due to the amount of time the drug takes to work.” said the zoo director Derek Grove.

Oct 7, 2018 Japan: 40 year old Zookeeper, Akira Furusho, was pronounced dead on arrival after apparently being attacked by one of four white tigers kept at Hirakawa zoological park in the city of Kagoshima. Naturalist Steve Backshall repeated what we’ve been saying for decades at Big Cat Rescue, “A wild tiger could range over 1,500 square miles – obviously you could never have a zoo that size.” He was explaining why captivity is so stressful for tigers.

Sept 21, 2018 Fresno, CA:  A lion bit a trespasser at the Chaffee Zoo in Central Fresno.  “He did have to jump over a fence that has a no trespassing sign and had to climb over the barbed wire that was on top of it to actually get into the zoo itself,” Lt. Jennifer Horsford, Fresno Police Department.  The trespasser has been identified as 38-year-old Julio Mendez. Mendez ran away and attempted to climb an 18-foot high mesh to get away from security.  That’s when one of the lions in the exhibit stood up on her back feet and bit Mendez on his left big toe.

June 27-28, 2018:  A serval was filmed slinking around the 700 block of S. Florida Av in Tarpon Springs, FL on June 27 and recaptured the next day.

June 21, 2018 Belgium:  A lion was killed at Belgium’s Planckendael zoo after escaping from an enclosure.  After two failed anesthetic attempts the lion was shot to death.

May 31, 2018 Wellington Ontario:  Provincial Police in Southern Ontario helped track down and capture a wandering young lioness.  A motorist had called to report they had seen a lion cub on the side of the road near the community about 65 kilometres north of Kitchener.  Officers went to the scene, but the cub was long gone, according to OPP. They tracked down the owner and discovered the cub had recently escaped from its pen.

May 9, 2018  China Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village in Guilin: A 50 year old zoo keeper was mauled to death by a tiger he had raised from a cub. The zoo has become notorious for selling traditional “medicines” such as wine made using bones and other body parts from tigers. Another zookeeper died there in 2004 after being mauled by a hungry tiger. The zoo has been the subject of two exposes by the South China Morning Post in 2007 and again in 2016, when reporters found dozens of animals in an emaciated state packed into poorly constructed enclosures. According to the exposes, tiger skeletons are steeped in alcohol to produce expensive elixirs, which are still sold around China for high prices. The sale of tiger bones has been illegal on mainland China since 1993. The zoo advertises itself as home to thousands of wild animals, including over 1,300 tigers, 200 African lions and more.

May 1, 2018 S. Africa:  A lion whose attack on a Michael Hodge, owner of Marakele Predator Centre in Limpopo province was recorded in a graphic video has been killed. The video shows Hodge walking in an enclosure behind the lion and then running for an exit when the lion turns and chases him. The lion quickly drags him toward some bushes.

May 1, 2018 Pelham, AL: A serval went missing when he bolted from the front door of Felicia Wilson’s home.

Mar 19, 2018 Mexico:  Gustavo Serrano Carabajal was cleaning the Kimba lion’s cage but forgot to properly lock the gate.  The lion opened the gate and attacked Carabajal by savaging his neck. His lifeless body was later found in the enclosure of Kimba – who is kept at Nicolas Bravo Zoo, in  Mexico.

Mar 12, 2018 China:  An official with the Fuzhou City Government in East China’s Fujian Province said the tiger “suddenly bit onto and suffocated him to death.”  The statement said Wu, who worked for the Fuzhou Zoo, had raised the tiger since it was a cub, and that it had been domesticated through long-term interaction with humans.  Officials described the tiger as “usually quite docile”.

Mar 10, 2018 Jaddah, Saudi Arabia:  A horror moment was caught on film when a little girl is mauled by a lion after kids were trapped inside enclosure where their parents had brought them to play with a “cub”.  The girl can be seen screaming in terror as lion swipes at her with its paws, pinning her to the wall before forcing her to the ground.

Mar 6, 2018 Pretoria, SA:   A 22-year-old, unnamed woman was mauled to death while visiting a popular private wildlife sanctuary run by Kevin Richardson, the well-known “Lion Whisperer,” near Pretoria at the Dinokeng Big 5 Game Reserve.  Richardson was taking “his” lions for a walk when one broke free and killed the woman almost 2 miles away as she was getting into her car after doing an interview for school.

Feb 7, 2018  Guatamala:  Cipriano Alvarez, 55, had his limbs ripped off after putting his hands too far through the metal bars to give circus tigers a bucket of water to drink from. He had been instructed to fast them every third day.  The tigers ate his arms.

Jan 11, 2018 Krasnoyarsk, Russia:  A woman is saved by her thick winter coat when runaway puma attacks her after it escaped from a Russian circus called Dovgalyuk Dynasty.  The woman was attacked from behind as she bought tickets.  Drivers in the car park honked horns to scare the puma away and stop the attack.  The puma was later caught.


  • Show Comments (7)

  • Farooq Rehman

    very sad stories…

  • Suzanne Pilozo

    In the mid to late '70's, my Aunt was attacked by a 250lb Bengal tiger in the Great Arena of Great Adventure Amusement Park, Jackson, NJ. She was a performer in the circus type act they used to have there. The attack took place during a show in front of about 2,00 people yet no mention of it here…????

  • Suzanne Pilozo

    *2,000 people

  • Debbie Diggs Verberne

    wild animals belong in the wild….not in cages

  • LaWanna Mitchell

    These are stories that were documented in news etc. If you can provide any kind of documentation on the attack it can be added to this.

  • LaWanna Mitchell

    Search news stories and you will find them.

  • Debra Hamer

    Apparently these proponents of tiger and lion ownership think just because you raised your “pet” from the time it was a cub it’s just a big overgrown kitten and loves them to death (no pun intended) and; therefore, raising them from babies means they are now domesticated. How brain dead can you be to think that an apex predator that has the strength and gear to kill instantly is ever domesticated. Even if the attack is not intentional but reactionary or from over zealous play, they don’t know their own strength; therefore, can they gauge their nip or swipe. I have a cat who gives me love bites and sometimes they hurt like hell or even draw blood. He’s not intentionally trying to hurt me. He just doesn’t know, same with my Scarlet Macaw parrot. He has never learned pressure control when he bites and it’s excruciating when he does and he always tears flesh and draws blood. I saw this video the other day and just cringed waiting for the unthinkable to happen.

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