Keeper receives injury from lion at Chicago zoo

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Associated Press

CHICAGO -- An adult lion at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo attacked an animal keeper Thursday, injuring her seriously before fellow workers could shoo the beast away, officials said.

Nancy DeFiesta, 60, suffered injuries to her back, neck and arm during the attack, which occurred during her routine morning work on the lion exhibit, said Kathryn Gamble, chief veterinarian for the zoo.

Chicago Fire Department paramedics transported DeFiesta to Illinois Masonic Medical Center. She was listed in serious condition Thursday evening, said Lincoln Park Zoo spokeswoman Kelly McGrath.

"She suffered several bite wounds and lacerations, so she's having a CAT scan done and being treated for discomfort and potential infection," Gamble told the Chicago Tribune.

DeFiesta was attacked while working in the moat surrounding the lion exhibit, officials said. She radioed for assistance, and other zoo workers rushed to her aid.

As some workers used fire extinguishers to herd the exhibit's three adult lions indoors, others dropped a ladder into the moat. DeFiesta was able to climb out on her own.

"She never lost consciousness," McGrath said. "We're so relieved."

Zoo officials were investigating how DeFiesta got close enough to the lions to be injured, since the exhibit is designed so no direct contact occurs between the animals and human handlers. They also are investigating how many of the exhibit's three lions were involved in the incident, McGrath said.

Gamble said the incident posed no danger to the public.

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