Lion Mauls Man at Ghana Zoo After Alleged Attempt to Steal Cub

A man was mauled to death by a zoo lion on Sunday after allegedly attempting to steal one of her cubs.

The incident happened around 12 p.m. local time at the Accra Zoo, located in Accra, the capital city of Ghana. The unnamed man, believed to have been in his 40s, was first spotted hopping a security fence at the zoo and making his way into a lion enclosure, according to The Telegraph.

At the time that he entered the space, there were two white lion cubs in the enclosure with their mother. The adult lion reportedly pounced on the man as soon as it spotted him entering the enclosure.

"The lions have cubs so if you come too close they may feel you are trying to take away their babies," Benito Owusu Bio, deputy minister for lands and natural resources in Ghana, told local reporters in a statement following the incident. "We ask the public to desist from doing anything like this."

man mauled trying to steal lion cubs
Above, a representational shot of a white lion cub at a zoo. A man was mauled to death by a mother lion after sneaking into its enclosure at a Ghana zoo on Sunday. Federico Parra/AFP via Getty Images

Authorities have so far stressed that the man's motives for entering the enclosure are unknown. It is, however, heavily suspected that he was attempting to steal at least one of the cubs, due to their rarity.

What To Know About White Lions

The cubs are white lions, a condition caused by a rare genetic mutation in southern African lions that causes their fur to take on a fairer color.

Considered sacred in some African cultures, white lions are heavily targeted by poachers for their value on illicit markets. Experts estimate that only a dozen white lions currently exist in the wild, with the cubs at the Accra Zoo having been bred from two adults with the correct recessive traits to produce the effect.

The cubs might have been especially rare in Ghana, as lions are not found extensively in the wild there. A small population is thought to live in the country's Mole National Park, according to the BBC, roughly 680 kilometers north of Accra.

Ongoing Investigation

Following the incident, the man's body was successfully removed from the enclosure and brought to a morgue. The investigation into the situation remains ongoing, with zoo officials cooperating with local police. All of the Accra Zoo's facilities remained open in the wake of the incident.

"After the necessary forensic examination of the scene, the body was removed and has been deposited at the Police Hospital morgue for preservation and autopsy," the Accra Police Service said in a statement. "The police are working with the management of the zoo and the forestry commission to get to the bottom of this unfortunate incident."

Newsweek reached out to the Accra Police for comment.

Other lions have made headlines, including another rare white lion who left the internet divided and pondering the question, "Did the lion give himself that haircut? Or did someone else?"

In March, scientists gave lions the love hormone oxytocin to see what would happen.

It did have an effect, which, scientists said, might be useful in times when a handler needs to get close, which could prevent situations like this one when a handler got too close and lost a finger in May, or when wildlife conservationists are trying to increase population in aggressive animals to hopefully avoid another incident of lions killing each other.