A man who owns 16 big cats at his mini zoo in Slovakia has been mauled to death by them, with police only able to find various body parts in their enclosure.
Farmer Jozef died at his home in the town of Kysucke Nove Mesto in the north of the country on Tuesday, May 16.
Authorities are now considering euthanising all the lions and tigers at the zoo after police shot one lion and one lioness when they were alerted to the death at Ranc Pri Ziline farm.
Jozef, the owner of the farm, had obtained permission to breed the wild animals, but the permit expired in 2019 and had not been renewed, according to local media.
He is said to have fed the animals himself on a regular basis.
Alena Krcova, a spokeswoman for the emergency services, said that “parts of a human body were identified at the scene”.
And Zuzana Sefcikova, a spokeswoman for the Zilina Regional Police, said: “We received a report that the keeper did not return from the enclosure of exotic animals in the Oskerda district of Kysucky Nove Mesto.
“All available forces and means were immediately sent to the farm for the purpose of properly securing the scene. A man’s body was found on the scene, but the exact cause of death will be determined by an autopsy.”
After news of the tragedy spread, locals flocked to the farm, according to local media, with one woman saying: “We used to come here regularly.
“I saw with my own eyes how he went to the cage and fed the lions.
“I always asked him if he was afraid, and he just said that he had been feeding them since they were babies.”
Another local named only as Peter added: “He was very arrogant, he didn’t know how to behave, he abused the animals and they had very bad conditions.”
Local media reported that the owner repeatedly had run-ins with the law and with animal rights organisations dating back to 2017.
There had also reportedly been other incidents at the zoo, with a 29-year-old woman called Jaroslava being injured when she put her hand into a cage to pet a one-year-old tiger called Diego in 2019.
She survived the incident with injuries to her hand, with the now deceased owner saying at the time: “We continue to operate and no one is at risk here.
“The lady is not employed here, she is a friend of our employee, who arbitrarily let her into a space where she had no reason to be, and we will solve this matter within the company.”
Diego was spared being put down after Jozef claimed that the tiger was not aggressive.
The Slovakian authorities are now deciding what to do with the remaining animals, with the Agriculture Minister not ruling out euthanising them.
He said: “If such a tragic situation happens, the carnivorous instinct can usually repeat at different times.”