Joburg Zoo Apologizes for Lion Attack

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Condolences for lion attack

Written by Limakatso Khalianyane

15 February 2012



The City is helping the family and colleagues of Johannes Ramonetha, who was attacked and killed by a lioness at the Joburg Zoo’s conservation farm in Parys.


CITY officials have sent their condolences to the family of the zoo employee who died after a lioness attacked him.


The incident occurred on 13 February at the Johannesburg Zoo’s conservation farm in Parys in Free State Province, where Johannes Ramonetha had been working since 2000. Ramonetha was declared dead en-route to the hospital.


Executive Mayor Parks Tau said he was very saddened by the incident, the City relayed. Trevor Fowler, the City manager, immediately dispatched help when he heard the news.


“Staff from the employee assistance programme, health and safety as well as risk assurance later travelled to the farm in Parys. Arrangements were made for employees to be counselled for shock,” said Louise Gordon, the zoo’s executive manager and education.


Portfolio heads Chris Vondo and Ros Greeff; the executive director for community development, Pilisiwe Twala-Tau; and the City’s executive director of environmental planning and management, Flora Mokgohloa, are among City officials who have sent their condolences.


Ramonetha, who was affectionately known as Joe, had been working at the zoo since 1970. Although he was initially appointed as a driver at the Joburg Zoo, he was later trained as an animal keeper and acted as a driver and relief keeper on the farm in Parys.


At the time of the attack, he was a casual staff member. He had retired in 2011, but accepted a six-month contract offered to him. “The zoo staff mourns the loss of a zoo family member and he will be missed,” said Gordon.


The zoo’s chief executive, Stephen van der Spuy, said a full investigation was launched jointly with the police. “Initial indications are that this incident had apparently happened after the gates were left open – this was [due] to apparent human error,” Gordon added.


Describing the safety measures at the zoo, she said lions at the Parys farm were kept in a secure enclosure with clear separation between staff and visitors. There was also an electric fence in place. “Employees are trained to keep all gates closed on entering the facility, then let the lions out into the outside camp area, secure the entrances to the night rooms and passage before any work starts.”


Safety of employees and visitors was always a priority. “It is unusual for animals to attack employees while on their routine duty.”


Gordon said a long-serving staff member had confirmed that such an incident had not occurred at the zoo in the last 50 years because of comprehensive safety training.


It is believed that the lioness that attacked Ramonetha was locked in the night room. It did not show any signs of undue aggression towards any humans while it was being sedated. To ensure safety, the zoo is reviewing the risk profile of employees and more measures will be placed to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.




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