A Canadian teenager has been mauled by two lions, while volunteering at a wild animal rehab facility in South Africa. Lauren Fagen, 18, was working at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility in the country's Limpopo Province, when she tried to kiss a male lion called Duma.
In response, the animal reached through the bars of its cage, gripped Fagen's legs and dragged her into the cage. The lion was joined by a lioness, which bit Fagen's feet. The teen survived the attack and has admitted she is lucky to have done so; she sustained 10 flesh wounds and is in hospital. She hopes to be discharged soon.
"I didn't realise he could stick his paws through. I should have died or lost a leg. It was a miracle that I survived. He could have ripped off my skin and I would have died of blood loss," Fagen said, according to a report in The Globe and Mail.
A student of McGill University, Fagen has volunteered at the facility for a month now and helped with cleaning lion cages and feed animals like rhinoceros and honey badgers.
"I knew that lions were strong but I don't think you'll understand how strong a lion is until you feel his force," Fagan told ABC News, adding she felt a "deep connection" to big cats and was keen to explore her "passion".
In the lead-up to the attack, Fagen was cleaning Duma's cage and she says the five year old animal (who was raised at the facility) was extremely friendly
When the lion attacked, Fagen screamed for help, saying, "It didn't feel real" and explaining she had her knee trapped against the bars.
"That's when fear set in, because you couldn't be logical anymore when your left knee is stuck and you can't pull it out and it was bleeding," she said. "I just said, 'It's stuck there, he's going to bite the whole thing off," she added.
It took several volunteers (who beat the lion with a broom) to rescue her. Fagen will have scars on her legs from the wounds but no permanent damage has been caused to any part of her body.
Brian Jones, the centre's founder, blamed Fagen for the attack and said: "She came here telling people that she wanted to hug an animal."
Jones said he attached no blame to his facility or other employees/volunteers and no changes to safety rules would be made. He also said volunteers were not allowed to get close to the animals and feeding was handled by "my indigenous black men".
Fagen, however, said the facility should have informed workers lions could reach out through the cages.
The Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility, according to its website, has been functioning for 22 years and has approximately 1,000 visitors for guided tours every month.