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Tragedy as four lions devour teenager in Pakistan safari park

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Mystery surrounds Bilal's decision to enter the lion enclosure to cut grass. AFP

Tragedy as four lions devour teenager in Pakistan safari park

In a horrifying incident at an animal park in the Pakistani city of Lahore, four lions killed a 17-year-old grass reaper. However, how Muhammad Bilal Hussain managed to get near the lions was yet to be ascertained.

Safari officials said Hussain climbed a 3.7m high fence on Tuesday night and jumped into the safari zoo to cut grass from the rear end of the enclosure which looks like a thick jungle. Four lions devoured him and the next morning parts of his skeleton were found in the lions’ enclosure.

Lahore Safari Zoo director Mohammad Shafqat told Dawn that Hussain, who hailed from Athoowal village, had been missing for the past two days.

On Wednesday morning, his parents went to the safari looking for him and spotted his shoes and a sickle in the lion enclosure, and some grass he may have cut bundled in his shawl. These items were found inside the enclosure far from the fence.

“We found his clothes in the lion enclosure and then later came across the skull and bones when workers went to feed the animals,” Shafqat said.

The safari officials caged the lions and then stepped into the enclosure to find his remains.

Shafqat added that it was unclear how Bilal ended up in the lion enclosure, noting that a criminal investigation was underway.

“There is a safety fence in place, but that is to keep the animals in their enclosures.

“People come in vehicles all the time and we haven’t had such an incident before,” he said.

Bilal had done odd jobs around the park, Shafqat said, and his parents had come to the facility to raise the alarm after he went missing Monday.

The family raised a hue and cry on finding Hussain’s belongings. His father Mohammad Shareef told Dawn that his son had left home at 5pm (1200 GMT) on Monday to cut grass and never returned.

“We kept searching for him at all possible places. We then thought of visiting the safari on the likelihood of finding some clue to his whereabouts. But to our utter shock, we found the remains of our beloved son. I have six children – three daughters and three boys – and Bilal was the eldest,” he said.

When asked why Hussain would jump into the lion’s enclosure just to cut grass or if he had an enmity with someone, Shareef rejected outright both possibilities, saying he left home in a cheerful mood. He was mentally stable and had no enmity with anyone, the grieving man added.

There were no CCTV cameras installed at the safari to determine what exactly happened.

The safari director said that officials called the police at 3pm on Wednesday after they found the remains of the boy and the police initiated an investigation into the matter.

Punjab Wildlife Director General Tahir Hamdani told Dawn that a departmental enquiry had been initiated into the matter and a report would be compiled in a couple of days.

Police official Najeeb Awan said they were investigating the incident, Reuters reported. He said Hussain’s family and neighbours have attacked offices at the park, smashing windows and damaging vehicles.

DAWN (PAKISTAN)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK/AFP

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