These big cat attack stories are from 1919-2020. 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
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.
Big Cat Attacks
The following is a partial listing (783) 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 273 more adults and children, 291 escapes, the killing of 150 big cats, and 134 confiscations. There have also been 364 big cat incidents outside the U.S. that have resulted in the deaths of 119 humans and the mauling of 193 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. http://bigcatrescue.org/big-cat-attacks
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: http://bigcatrescue.org/2007/zoonotic-disease-discussion-on-national-geographic/
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 http://bigcatrescue.org/laws/AMJForensicFeline.pdf
Yearly Maulings Killings and Escapes by Big Cats
June 16, 2021 Gqeberha, South Africa: A tiger named Jasper escaped his enclosure at the Seaview Predator Park, killing his keeper of 15 years David Solomon before breaking into the cage of a younger male tiger named Judah and killing him. This keeper had raised him from a cub.
May 25 2021 Xichuan, China: Circus Tigers Fatally Maul Handler After Escaping Enclosure. Police in China shot dead two circus tigers who had escaped their enclosure and fatally mauled a handler, in what was the country’s second such incident in just three days. The big cats, mature Siberian tigers, escaped into a tourist park in Xichuan County, in Nanyang in Henan province. The handler, identified as Jia, was taken to a local hospital after the incident at Danjiang Peacock Valley. The victim was pronounced dead at the facility. Danjiang Peacock Valley had hired the circus to perform at the park. The troupe had the required licenses to keep and breed the tigers.
May 23, 2021 Bengbu, Anhui, China: A 55-year-old zookeeper was mauled to death while cleaning a Siberian tiger enclosure. The victim, named Yang, had reportedly worked at the zoo for two decades. Local reports said Yang was attacked by the big cat after a gate to an isolated section of the enclosure was left unlocked. The latest casualty has renewed calls for China to curb circuses and zoos. “What is the purpose of these zoos? To satisfy some strange human curiosity? If you want to conserve these animals, why can’t we send them back to nature reserves?” one Weibo user commented.
May 9, 2021 Houston, TX: 28-year-old Victor Cuevas, a suspect out on $125k bond from a 2017 murder, fled 1103 Ivy Wall Dr. with his pet tiger in his white Cherokee using paper tags after police were dispatched to discover a tiger wandering the neighborhood. This tells you just about everything you need to know about those who buy and sell tigers.
April 19, 2021 Felida, WA: A firefighter was bitten by an African serval while responding to a house fire in the Felida area of Clark County. The fire was contained in 25 minutes and there were no injuries from the fire reported. However, in addition to the first responders called to deal with the fire, animal control was called to manage the serval, who was also unarmed but shaken. (I think they meant unharmed 🙂 )
March 11, 2021 Columbus, OH: A Columbus Zoo keeper is recovering after a cheetah attack. Two Columbus Zoo and Aquarium staff members were walking Isabelle, a 4-year-old cheetah, with a harness from her facility in the Heart of Africa area to a behind-the-scenes yard for her routine exercise. The zookeeper was walking on the same path. After Isabelle sat and appeared to be calm, the caretakers invited the zookeeper to come closer, but Isabelle attacked. The Liberty Township Fire Department was called and the victim was taken to a nearby hospital for further evaluation.
Feb. 22, 2021 Germany: A woman who works at the Osnabrück Zoo in Berlin was cleaning the big cat’s cage when it lunged at her. A lion pounced on her but she managed to escape the terrifying attack with no major injuries, authorities said. The unidentified 25-year-old woman was cleaning the big cat’s cage at around noon when it lunged at her, according to police.
Feb 21, 2021. CA: At the Butte Valley Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Sanctuary, a leopard attacked an employee that had been working with big cats for 10 years and had felt she had a relationship with this leopard. It appears it was common practice to go inside the cages with the cats. Kirshner says two volunteers were feeding one of the sanctuary’s two Amur leopards. One volunteer, later attacked, was inside the cage while the other remained just outside.
Feb. 15, 2021 TX: San Antonio. Sheriff Salazar says he has named a tiger that was rescued over the weekend “Elsa,” after Sunday night’s winter storm that coated San Antonio in snow. The tiger, believed to be an 8-month-old female, will eventually be transferred to Black Beauty Ranch for long-term care. The animal is currently in the care of Wildlife Rescue. What everyone needs to know is where did the tiger come from and who illegally declawed this endangered species?
Feb. 6, 2021 TX: A tiger was found wandering around San Antonio, TX. A woman saw a tiger walking around in her backyard on Elk Runner near Pearsall Park on the Southwest side of San Antonio. Officers went to the location and the tiger was already gone. With the help of Animal Care Services, they were able to figure out where the tiger was located. They contacted that homeowner, who told them he had borrowed the tiger from a friend so he could show his family. The tiger jumped his back yard fence and went into the neighbor’s yard. He told officers that he was able to catch the tiger and take it back to his friend, who has several tigers.
Feb. 6, 2021 Borneo: A critically endangered Sumatran tiger was shot dead while another is still on the loose after they escaped from a zoo on Borneo island, leaving a zookeeper dead. The tigers, both female and about 18 months old, escaped from Sinka Zoo in the town of Singkawang, West Kalimantan after days of torrential rain caused a landslide and opened a tunnel allowing their exit. A 47-year-old zookeeper was found dead with scratches and bite wounds on his body.
Feb. 5, 2021 Ukraine: At the Minsk Zoo in Belarus, Ukraine, a tiger fatally attacked one of the zoo’s workers during feeding time. German daily newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeige reported that the employee was bitten on his neck by the tiger and “failed to observe the safety regulations and had gone into the cage alone.” Other employees were not around when the attack occurred.
Dec 29, 2020 Mexico: Thor the tiger cub returned to owner by Juárez animal shelter authorities. The 5-month-old tiger had been housed at a Juárez municipal animal shelter after police discovered the big cat during a Dec. 18 traffic stop in the Mexican border city. The cub was returned after his owner provided the proper ownership documentation, Margarita Edith Peña Pérez, director of the Juárez city ecology department, said in a news release.
Dec 11, 2020 China: A tiger mauled his trainer in a Chinese circus. “The tiger didn’t have teeth because it’s a trained tiger,” Mr Li said. ‘The keeper did not feed it well today and it knocked the trainer to the ground. ‘The man suffered minor injuries. He has returned after being examined at the hospital. He’s fine,’ the official added. The incident sparked outrage on social media as animal lovers and organisations urged authorities to axe such performances.
Dec. 3, 2020 Tampa, FL: A volunteer was bitten by a tiger after sticking her arm in a cage at Big Cat Rescue. More here: https://bigcatrescue.org/volunteer-injured-by-tiger/
Aug. 28, 2020 Hoedspruit, S. Africa: West Mathewson (68) of the Lion Tree Top Lodge has died of his injuries after he was attacked by his beloved white lions. Buying lions from a hunting lodge and raising them to show off with does not make someone a conservationist or a rescuer, if they continue sending the bad messages he did by posing with the lions as if they could be kept as pets. Sources say his wife plans to release the remaining lions to the wild, but that’s illegal. If anything they will probably be sent back to the game farm to be shot for a price.
May 28, 2020 Australia: 35 year old zookeeper, Jennifer Brown was found lying unconscious on the ground inside a pen full of lions. “We were treating her for lacerations to her neck and injuries to her head,” Insp. Stockman said. “We loaded her took her to a waiting specialist rescue helicopter and she was transported to St George Hospital.” The South Eastern Sydney Local Health District says the woman has arrived in critical but stable condition.
Mar. 5, 2020 India: 30-year-old Wasim Ansari was killed by a nine-year-old tigress, Anuskha, after he leapt into her enclosure at the Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park, also known as Birsa zoo, in Ranchi’s Ormanjhi. Bablu climbed a three-feet tall fence and crossed a moat, which is16-feet deep and 32-feet wide, to enter the tigress’s enclosure.
Mar. 3, 2020 CA: A Hollywood video shows a serval, which is native to Africa, attempting to escape from an animal control officer who caught the cat after he had been on the prowl for a day or so. It is illegal to own a serval in California without a special permit. Los Angeles Animal Services is working to determine if the cat has an owner.
Feb. 24, 2020 Pakistan: The remains of 18-year-old Muhammad Bilal were found inside a lion enclosure at a zoo in Lahore, Pakistan two days after he went missing. His family found a skull and two bones inside the enclosure of Safari Park Lahore which had four lions inside. The blood-soaked skull and some bones in the enclosure were found with ripped clothing that his relatives identified as his. Officials are investigating how he ended up in the enclosure.
Feb. 8, 2020 S. Africa: Swans van Wyke, 21, was mauled to death by lions after being attacked inside their enclosure at a game reserve in Bela-Bela, Limpopo province, South Africa. She was found collapsed outside the cage gate with major injuries including deep bite and claw wounds. The reserve has not been named.
Jan 30, 2020 India: A 58 year old employee of the Arignar Anna Zoological Park was injured after a tiger cub’s nail scratched her hand at the zoo recently. Vijaya and her husband have been both working as part of the zoo’s maintenance staff for several years.
Jan 7, 2020 Mexico: Noemi Rosas Fragoza, 30, faces losing her arm after she was mauled by a jaguar when she got too close to its cage to ‘take a selfie’.
The jaguar attacked her in front of shocked onlookers at the Zoologico Bio Zoo in Córdoba, Veracruz, Mexico. Reports said the big cat severed a tendon and the victim may lose her arm.
Dec 9, 2019 CA: Patty Perry, director of Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Inc. in Moorpark, was mauled by several of the park’s tigers at an event for the park’s donors, CNN affiliate KABC reported. Michael Bradbury, Perry’s friend and the sanctuary’s lawyer, said Perry had been hospitalized with punctures in her neck and lacerations.
Dec 9, 2019 Pakistan: A zookeeper was attacked by a lion through the bars of its enclosure during feeding time as onlookers screamed in horror. Kannu Piraditta was feeding the big cat raw meat at the Karachi Zoological Gardens in Karachi, Sindh, on Monday when the animal clamped its jaws around his arm. Mr Piraditta had been throwing meat to the white lion, who shared the enclosure with a lioness, when the animal attacked. It took 40 seconds for the lion to chew the arm down to the bone, before the man was able to break free.
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.