Story By: Ana Marjanovic, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
A lion has been shot and killed in Guatemala after escaping from its cage and mauling its carer to death.
The incident took place at the Turicentro Santa Isabel (Saint Elizabeth Tourist Centre) in the municipality of El Chal in the Guatemalan department of Peten on 20th November.
The 20-year-old lion was reportedly registered to Walter Obdulio Mendoza Mata, who was jailed in 2019, and was part of a private collection of animals at the tourist centre.
The body of the animal’s mauled carer, named as Santos Esquivel Najera, 33, was found outside the lion’s cage.
The big cat escaped and officers of the National Civil Police (PNC) subsequently shot the lion dead.
The Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance confirmed that they are investigating the incident.
Meanwhile, the victim’s family has announced that they plan to take legal action against the Turicentro Santa Isabel.
According to the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), the lion was registered by Walter Obdulio Mendoza Mata in 2006.
He was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2019 for intimidating farmers to abandon their lands in the departments of Izabal and Peten.
He used armed gangs to force villagers from their fields before claiming ownership through notaries.
The animal rights group Guate Unida por los Animales has called on the local authorities to investigate the other animals at the tourist centre, adding that the government should take a tough stand on caging animals in zoos and circuses like in Costa Rica.
The group also slammed the killing of “an innocent animal” following the lion’s escape.
The investigation continues.