More than 30 people hid while a lioness was on the loose at a zoo on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia, before keepers shot it dead Tuesday.

Visitors to Mogo Zoo, about six miles south of Batemans Bay, had to be locked away in "safe houses" when nine-year-old lioness Jameila broke free. Zoo owner Sally Padey said keepers tried to recapture the animal but had to shoot when it became a public threat. "The risk was too great," she said. "It was a situation that could have been far more devastating than it already is."

Mogo Zoo business manager John Appleby said a marksman was told to "put her down."

"She never reached a public area but there was a concern that she may have," he said. "She was moving quite slowly towards a public area, but under the circumstances a decision was made to put her down."

Staff members were devastated by the loss of Jamelia, who was born at the zoo and hand-reared.

"She was part of the Mogo Zoo family and a very important animal and loved by the entire team," he said.It was the first animal to escape in the zoo's 20-year history.

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