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Dallas Zoo Investigating Deadly Lion Attack

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Stephanie Lucero
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - An investigation is just beginning into a deadly animal attack at the Dallas Zoo. Two male lions killed Johari, a 5-year-old lioness, in the zoo’s Giants of the Savanna exhibit. Now, zoo officials are trying to figure out what went wrong, and what will happen next.

Veterinarians at the Dallas Zoo performed a necropsy on Sunday, which is the animal equivalent of an autopsy.  Zoo officials say Johari’s cause of death was suffocation. She had been a part of the exhibit since its grand opening in 2010.

Dozens of zoo visitors witnessed the attack, and said that it was something that they will never forget. According to those witnesses, one of the male lions was seen biting Johari on the throat as the other male lion went in for the kill. It was not until Johari went visibly limp, unmoving underneath one of the bigger males, that people knew that something was wrong.

“You just stand there and you can’t believe what’s happening,” said witness Michael Henshaw. “Are they playing or are they killing each other?”

Zoo officials called a code red and asked all guests to clear the area.  The two males and three females have lived together in the Giants of the Savanna exhibit for three years. Officials will now conduct an investigation into Johari’s death, but that could take weeks or perhaps even months. Zoo officials want to know what the female lion’s behavior was in the moments before she was killed.

“There was a couple of puncture wounds, and that was all we saw externally…and there was some hemorrhaging underneath the skin. Basically the animals trachea was collapsed and she suffocated,” Dr. Lynn Kramer with the Dallas Zoo.

The two male lions are being kept in their night quarters for the time being. Officials say they will most likely be allowed back into the exhibit later this week.

Zoo guests expressed shock a day after the attack. “Well, I found it sad. My friends from out of town and we wanted to see the lions. So we’ll just kind of move on and see what’s left,” said visitor Shannon Farley.

Officials say none of the zoo keepers actually saw the attack. They are interested in talking to any of the visitors who witnessed it – to help in their investigation.

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