A female lion at the Dallas Zoo was killed by a male lion in front of visitors on Sunday and officials are unsure what prompted the attack.

The female lion, 5-year-old Johari, was bitten on the neck by one of two male lions in the exhibit, Kamaia and Dinari, although it’s unclear what lion delivered the fatal bite. Lynn Kramer, the zoo’s vice president of animal operations and welfare, told MyFoxDFW.com  he had never seen such an attack in several decades of experience with the animals.

“We really don’t know what caused this,” Kramer said. “I’ve never seen a cat kill another cat before.”


Zoo officials said there was little visible damage from the attack. The five lions in the exhibit, including three females, are unrelated but had been raised as a family for the last three years.

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Several visitors who witnessed the attack said some people believed the animals were playing with each other at first.

“It’s unbelievable, you’re at the zoo and this happens,” Michael Henshaw told the station. “You’re just standing there and can’t believe what’s happening. Are they playing, are they killing each other?”

Some parents moved their children away from the exhibit while others stayed, Henshaw said.

‘It was something you don’t, you can’t look away,” he said. “You don’t really expect to see that when you’re at the zoo.”

Another witness, Dylan Parker, said the entire incident lasted about 10 minutes.

“All of a sudden, they were just going at it non-stop,” Parker, 19, told the station. "And then the male kind of eased up a little bit on his attack, but the smaller male kind of decided he wanted to join in and he just pinned the lioness down on the ground and was just dragging her by the neck. And he just laid down beside her for probably a good 10 minutes until she quit moving.”

The lions were separated late Sunday, but zoo officials said the remaining females probably will be back on display Monday. Zoo spokeswoman Laurie Holloway told The Dallas Morning News there are no immediate plans to return the males to the same enclosure.