AUSTIN (Reuters) - A male lion killed a lioness with a crushing bite to the neck in the Dallas Zoo at the weekend as families and other stunned visitors looked on, and the zoo said it was investigating what may have triggered the seemingly unprovoked attack.
The five-year-old lioness named Johari died quickly, and there were no visible signs of trauma, the zoo said in a statement on Monday. After the attack, zoo staff scrambled to remove the remaining four lions in the exhibit from public view.
"This is a very rare and unfortunate occurrence. In my 35 years as a veterinarian in zoos, I've never seen this happen," said Lynn Kramer, vice president of animal operations and welfare at the Dallas Zoo.
Many visitors did not realize the lioness was being attacked by a member of the pride, who casually used its jaws to grab the lioness by the throat.
It then appeared to back away from the lifeless lioness, in video of the incident shown on local broadcaster WFAA.
"Everyone thought they were playing at first but then they could see that she was struggling," Jim Harvey, who witnessed the killing, told WFAA.
The lioness, nicknamed Jo-Jo, recently celebrated her fifth birthday. Nearly 100 guests sang "Happy Birthday" to her while she enjoyed a frozen cake, the zoo said.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Bernard Orr)