A lion attacked a 10-year-old boy visiting a circus in eastern China, biting off his arm through the bars of its cage, state media said Monday.

The boy was looking at the lion Saturday at Wanfota Park in Mengcheng, a county in Anhui province, when the feline lunged and grabbed the boy with its paws, pulling the child's arm inside the cage, the Xinhua News Agency said.

"Park workers managed to pull the boy away, but his left arm had been torn away by the animal," Xinhua said.

The reason behind the attack was not immediately clear. Doctors at the No. 1 People's Hospital operated on the boy, Xinhua said.

A man who answered the telephone at the hospital's emergency room Monday confirmed that the boy had been treated there and was still recovering. He did not have details and directed queries to the hospital's administrative office, where phones rang unanswered.

Mengcheng police said the space between the cage's iron bars were too large, and failed to properly contain the lion, according to Xinhua.

Police were questioning the park owners and circus organizers.

Last year, a 9-year-old boy was eaten by a crocodile in the southern region of Guangxi. The boy, with three other children, had scaled a fence around a pool in a park where crocodile shows were staged.

They fired at the reptiles with catapults and beat them with wooden sticks until one, riled by the treatment, dragged the boy into the water, where he was eaten by a swarm of crocodiles.