(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with more info)
GORYEONG, South Korea, Aug. 14 (Yonhap) — A lioness was shot dead Monday after escaping from a private tourist animal farm in the southern county of Goryeong, officials said.
Police received a report at 7:23 a.m. that the animal had broken out of its cage at the farm in Goryeong, 233 kilometers southeast of Seoul. About an hour later, police and hunters located the animal in a forest next to the farm and shot it to death, officials said.
The county government had earlier sent an emergency text message alerting residents to the escape and sent police and fire authorities to locate the loose animal.
According to the farm’s owner, a ranch manager found a back door of the lioness’ cell unlatched and her gone when he visited to feed the animal and clean the room. The manager urgently alerted the owner to the animal’s absence and the owner immediately reported it to the police.
A team of 159 police personnel, fire authorities and county hunters were sent to the farm area and located the big cat in the forest just next to the farm. The lioness did not run away but remained seated or walked about in the vicinity when it was located, the hunters said.
Authorities at the scene reached a decision to kill the animal because she was in a position capable of running to residential areas and an anesthetic gun would take time to sedate her. Two rounds of bullets were shot to kill the lioness, the hunters said.
The farm was designated by Goryeong as a tourist animal farm in February last year. The farm obtained a license to raise only cattle, not lions, but had been supposedly raising the lioness illegally, officials said.
“Even residents in the area or the head of the village didn’t know the farm was secretly raising the lioness,” a county official said, adding the county is looking into the circumstance.
The farm owner reportedly took over the lioness when he bought the facility. He said he had contacted environment authorities and a zoo to hand over the beast, but both refused to take her over, citing reasons including possible conflicts with other beasts.
The farm owner said his predecessor had raised the lioness since her babyhood about 20 years ago and the beast had been meek enough to try to be cute with him and allowed him to stroke her head.