An unidentified woman worker at the Granby Zoo in Quebec was preparing food for a lion before the zoo opened to the public Monday morning when the lion attacked her.
If not for the quick actions of a fellow zookeeper, the victim could've suffered worse injuries or possibly been killed, according to the Montreal Gazette.
The woman, reported to be in her early 20s, suffered serious injuries to her back and neck, CTV News reported. Other news outlets reported she sustained cuts and a cervical fracture in the first attack of its kind at the zoo located 50 miles east of Montreal.
Jacinthe Bouchard, an animal behaviorist and former Granby Zoo employee, told CTV News that the woman zookeeper is lucky to be alive.
A second zookeeper came to the rescue by using a high-pressure water hose to get the lion off the victim.
"The employees knew exactly what to do," Rob Vernon of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums told the Gazette. "Members must conduct at least four safety drills every year … I believe that's why this situation was resolved rather quickly."
The victim was in stable condition and conscious when treated at the zoo before being transferred to a local hospital where she underwent surgery, Stephan Scalabrini, head of Granby Zoo's ambulance services, told CBC News Montreal.
"We're still in shock about what happened," Paul Gosselin, the director of Granby Zoo, told a news conference, according to CBC News.
Gosselin said the staff follows a routine when feeding the lions and unfortunately the victim wound up in the same enclosure as the lion.
"We have to perform some transfers and unfortunately there was an open door between those enclosures," Gosselin said in the news conference, part of which was in a video posted by the Montreal Gazette:
"We're an accredited zoo, and we have very precise procedures when we work with dangerous animals like felines," Gosselin said, according to the Gazette.
Ed Hansen of the American Association of Zookeepers told CBC News that attacks on zookeepers occur about "once or twice a year" in North America.
In April, a woman zookeeper known as the "tiger whisperer" was killed by a Malayan tiger at the Palm Beach Zoo while she performed her typical daily tasks with the tiger in the tiger night house, where tigers are fed and sleep. In that case, the male tiger was shot with a tranquilizer gun.
The Granby Zoo has three lions among 1,500 animals onsite. The lion exhibit was closed to the public after the attack, pending results of the investigation, CTV News reported.
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