Lions that attacked a Shoalhaven Zoo zookeeper could be put down

Lions that mauled female zookeeper could be euthanised: Big cats face an uncertain future as zoo breaks its silence over attack that left woman, 35, fighting for life

  • Experienced big cat expert Jennifer Brown was viciously mauled by two lions
  • She was air-lifted to hospital after being savagely attacked in the neck and head
  • Ms Brown had been cleaning their cage on Friday when the pair pounced on her  
  • Paramedics described the rescue operation as ‘the worst they’d experienced’
  • Authorities will decide if they will put down the lions following investigation 
  • Do you know more? Email alisha.rouse@mailonline.com

Two lions could be put down following the horrific mauling of an experienced zookeeper.  

Jennifer Brown, 35, was cleaning the animal’s cage before the lions pounced and attacked her in the head and neck at Shoalhaven Zoo, in North Nowra, New South Wales, on Friday. 

Two quick-thinking colleagues rushed in to stop the attack and secure the lions, young cubs Ariel and Juda, who celebrated their first birthday in October with a zoo party.

The woman was taken to hospital in a serious, but stable condition. 

South Coast Police District Commander Detective Superintendent Greg Moore told Sydney Morning Herald the fate of the lions would be decided following an investigation. 

Ms Brown (pictured) was an experienced zookeeper and big cat expert, and is now battling serious injuries in hospital after being attacked by lions

Jennifer Brown (pictured) was viciously attacked by two young lions on Friday morning at Shoalhaven Zoo

The Shoalhaven Zoo made an emotional Facebook post thanking emergency services for their support

‘At this stage, we are looking into what has occurred and then a decision will be made once the investigation has been complete,’ he said.

‘Understandably, it has had a big impact on the staff – it is a small zoo and the staff are very tight-knit.’ 

Ms Brown had been working at the park since 2013 and had previously said she had a special place in her heart for ‘big cats’.

The Shoalhaven Zoo made an emotional Facebook post thanking emergency services for their support.

‘To all our friends, family and extended zoo family who have sent well wishes and prayers. 

‘It is hard to get back to each of you individually but we would like to let you know we appreciate and are thankful for all your love and offers of help. 

‘To the emergency services who were involved today we are thankful for your response of skill, compassion & care for Jen and the zoo team.’

Shoalhaven Zoo went on to say it was focusing its energy on providing support to Ms Brown.

‘At this point in time our only concerns are for Jen and her recovery. We ask that you continue to pray for her and her family.’

Pictures shared on the zoo’s Instagram shows show the lion brothers enjoying a specially-made cake, banner and presents. 

But just seven months later, they turned on Ms Brown, in an attack horrified paramedics described as ‘absolutely harrowing’.  

‘This is one of the worst jobs I have ever experienced – I have never come across a job like this in my career,’ NSW Ambulance duty operations manager Faye Stockmen said.

‘The attack was extremely vicious and paramedics found the woman with severe injuries. 

‘It was absolutely harrowing. It is an incredibly dangerous situations, both for the patient and the paramedics.

She was worked on by paramedics for more than two hours before being airlifted to St George Hospital for treatment.

Ariel and Juda (pictured in October) are seen enjoying the first birthday party thrown for them at Shoalhaven Zoo, months before they turned on a keeper

Jennifer Brown (pictured, working with lions) is a dedicated big cat expert at the zoo in North Nowra

Ariel and Juda (pictured) are beloved brothers at Shoalhaven Zoo, but turned vicious on Friday

‘There was some good work by the other employees at the zoo that responded swiftly and were able to secure the lions,’ Detective Superintendent Greg Moore said.

‘We will be working with authorities to make sure if there’s anything we can do to make these types of establishments safer, we will be doing our best to support that.’

Four ambulance crews and a rescue helicopter arrived at the scene and treated the woman before she was airlifted to hospital. 

She suffered numerous lacerations her neck and head. 

Superintendent Moore said emergency crews were called to the scene at about 10.30am on Friday.

The brothers are seen enjoying a specially-made birthday cake (pictured) during the party the zoo threw them in October

Ariel and Juda (pictured) are 19 months old, and viciously attacked their keeper Ms Brown on Friday

Speaking to reporters, Mr Moore said police were beginning to investigate how the incident unfolded, South Coast Register reported. 

‘Early indications are that a female zoo keeper was tending to some cleaning duties in the enclosure and was set on by two lions in that enclosure,’ he told reporters.  

‘I take this opportunity to commend the two zoo staff who reacted to the incident and were able to secure the lions and support their colleague.

‘I’m advised that the two colleagues, once they secured the lions, assisted the victim and emergency services were able to provide treatment at that point.’  

Daily Mail Australia contacted Shoalhaven Zoo who said they are not commenting on the incident at this time. 

The zoo, about two hours and 20 minutes south of Sydney, is home to four big cats. 

Visitors can pay $80 per person for the ‘Lion Feeding Encounter’.


The lions were thrown a colourful first birthday party back in October (pictured, left and right) and were even made a special cake

Four ambulance crews and a rescue helicopter arrived at the scene and treated the woman before she was airlifted to St George hospital

One of the lions is seen opening a birthday present (pictured) after the zoo threw them a first birthday party back in October

‘Come face to face with our Roarsome Foursome and get to feed the ‘King of the Savannah’,’ the website reads.

‘Have the experience of a life time getting close to our Big Cats. Feel their power and majesty as you get to feed them with the help of one of our keepers.’

The family-owned zoo has been closed to the public since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.  

A post on the zoo’s Facebook page said the family were continuing to live on site while they cared for the animals. 

‘While we are closed to the public we as a family will continue to live onsite and have key staff coming in to help us ensure the safety and wellbeing, cleaning and feeding of all our animals,’ the post reads. 

The 35-year-old was found unconscious in the lion’s enclosure at around 10.20am at Shoalhaven Zoo, in North Nowra 

Speaking to media after the attack Inspector Faye Stockmen, Duty Operations Manager of NSW Ambulance, said the rescue operation was ‘incredibly dangerous’

‘We value our staff and it has been heart wrenching to stand down some staff. Stay safe everyone! 

‘Thank you for all your support and we look forward to seeing you all back at the zoo soon.’  

The Facebook page received comments of support the mauling was reported on Friday.

‘My hopes and thoughts are with the lady, her family and staff at Shoalhaven zoo today,’ one person wrote.

‘Hoping your keeper is okay and the lion does alright too,’ another wrote.  

Another animal handler was attacked at the zoo in 2014 during a crocodile feeding show

The latest attack comes after another zookeeper was mauled by a crocodile in 2014.  

Trent Burton, aged in his 30s at the time, was grabbed by a 3.7m crocodile, known as John, and dragged him into the water. 

Onlookers were terrified to witness Mr Burton being attacked by the crocodile. 

‘I’ve seen them in the wild, lying on river banks, and have seen them at Steve Irwin’s zoo, but never like this,’ witness Marlene Orr told The Sydney Morning Herald at the time. 

‘It was too scary.’

Mr Burton was able to break free of the crocodile’s grasp and escape the water. 

He was treated for non-life threatening injuries to both of his hands and was taken to Shoalhaven District Hospital for treatment.   

Trent Burton (pictured) was mauled by a 3.7m crocodile, known as John, and dragged him into the water

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