Watch: Zookeeper's finger ripped off by lion after he sticks hand through fencing

23 May 2022, 12:09 | Updated: 23 May 2022, 12:55

A zoo contractor had his finger bitten off by a lion
A zoo contractor had his finger bitten off by a lion. Picture: @OneciaG/Twitter

By Will Taylor

Horrific footage shows the moment a lion rips off a zookeeper's finger with a bite after he stuck his hand through fencing.

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The viral video shows him poking the big cat and clapping at it as the animal growls at him at Jamaica Zoo.

It then bites down hard on his finger, and the staff member yells out as he tries to wrestle back his hand.

Warning: Video contains strong language and graphic detail - watch here

He puts his foot on the fence as he tries to haul his finger back, but the lion does not relent.

Finally, the contractor rips his hand free but loses part of his right ring finger, down to the first joint. All the skin was ripped off.

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Onlookers who were on a tour of the zoo are seen filming the footage, and one eyewitness said they thought the incident was a joke to begin with.

The injured man was able to walk to a vehicle before leaving the zoo in St Elizabeth, in the south west of the island nation.

When it happened, I thought it was a joke. I didn’t think it was serious. I didn’t realise the seriousness of it, because it’s their job to put on a show,” the witness told the Jamaican Observer.

The visitors had been on a tour before the injury happened on Saturday afternoon local time.

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"Obviously, when he fell on the ground everybody realised that it was serious. Everybody started to panic," she said, adding: "The entire skin and about the first joint of his finger was gone."

Pamela Lawson, the managing director of the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said: "We will be going down there and I will be communicating with the National Environment and Planning Agency who has oversight over Jamaica Zoo."

The zoo's management said: "The actions displayed in a video by a contractor to Jamaica Zoo is tragic and do not represent the safety procedures and policies that must be adhered to at all times at Jamaica Zoo.

"We are currently reviewing the video, with a view of preventing any future recurrences.

"It is an unfortunate event that should never have happened, and we the family of Jamaica Zoo are doing everything to assist the gentleman in moving forward.

"We do hope you continue to support Jamaica Zoo. We have always been and will continue to be a safe place for you and your family to visit."