A six-year-old girl was bitten to death by a tiger at a south China zoo while posing for a picture with the animal, state media reported Friday.

The girl, identified only as Ruixin, was standing behind the tiger with her mother and four other relatives when it attacked at a zoo in Yunnan province on Thursday, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The local Chuncheng Evening News reported on its Web site that the tiger attacked the girl shortly after the flash went off on her uncle's camera. The tiger's paw shot out and grabbed Ruixin, pulling her head into its mouth, it said.

Five zoo staff beat the tiger with wood sticks and a bench until it released the girl after about one minute, it said. Ruixin's mother was also bitten on the hand while struggling to save her daughter.

The girl was taken to a local hospital but rescue efforts failed, Xinhua said.

It said the animal was one of six tigers that perform at a circus in the zoo. The photo service, has been suspended, it said.

Phones at the Yuantongshan Zoo in Yunnan's capital of Kunming, where the attack occurred, rang unanswered. It was not known if the tiger had been killed following the attack.