Lions kill rare white tiger at Liberec Zoo

Photo: CTK

A rare white tigress was killed by two lions at the Liberec Zoo in north Bohemia on Thursday, as zookeepers stood by helpless, unable to prevent the tragedy. In the incident, the lions managed to lift a trap door leading to an open-air enclosure where the tiger was at the time. The lions reacted, enforcing their right to the territory, fatally trapping the tigress and killing her.

Isabella, photo: CTK
Rare white tigers are the pride of Liberec Zoo, north Bohemia and also the pride of many of the town’s citizens: even the town’s professional hockey team features the tigers in it’s name and emblem. So on Thursday it was sad news when many learned that one of the animals, the famous 17-year-old Isabella, had been attacked and killed by two of the zoo’s lions. Under normal circumstances the animals would never have come into contact, but some way or another the lions were able to lift a heavy trap door and slip into an open-air enclosure the tigress was occupying. Zoo workers heard the big cat’s cries but were unable to help. Zoologist Luboš Melichar spoke to Czech TV:

“We ran to the stop at the beginning of the encounter and worked to try and get and distract the lions’ attention. But the situation was hopeless. Afterwards, we had to wait as one of the lions stood over the tiger long after she had died. We were considering having to sedate him so we could get to her.”

The lions that attacked Isabella, photo: CTK
The lions circumvented a security system which has been used successfully for 12 years, allowing the zoo to rotate its big cats from one pavilion, without their coming into contact. When it happened, the lions reacted according to instinct, protecting what they perceived as their territory.

The zoo has since said it will no longer rotate the remaining species back-to-back, and will add further security to prevent a similar accident from happening. It also stressed that at no time were any visitors or anyone else under any threat on Thursday, given that the barriers are numerous and insurmountable. After the death of Isabella, the zoo still retains three other white tigers – including her daughter. The three are the only specimens of the rare tiger in the Czech Republic.