Zookeepers Kill Lions That Were Mauling Man Who Jumped in Their Cage

May 22, 2016 Updated: May 22, 2016

Two lions were shot and killed after a man jumped into their enclosure and stripped naked, officials said.

The big cats, located at the Santiago Metropolitan Zoo, were shot in order to save the man, according to a statement posted on the Santiago Metropolitan Zoo’s Facebook page.

The man was apparently trying to kill himself—according to a note found in his clothes, reported Chilean media outlet La Nacion.

Zoo staff shot the lions with live rounds to protect the man, identified as Franco Luis Ferrada.

“Due to the circumstances and to firstly protect the life of this person, we found ourselves obliged to apply all of our security protocols,” the zoo’s statement said.

The lions were shot in front of a large crowd of spectators.

Head of Santiago Zoo, Alejandra Montalva, said Ferrada climbed down into the enclosure with the help of a rope, reported TV network TVN.

“The alarms sounded and chemical control arrived (tranquilizer darts) and an independent shooter arrived. The shooter decided to save the life of the person and unfortunately we had to sacrifice two members of our family,” she said.

“The zoo has an established protocol because people’s lives are very important to us,” said Montalba, who added that she was “deeply affected” by the deaths of the two cats, a male and a female.

“We’re shaken by this because the animals in the zoo are part of our family,” Montalva added. “These were lions that had been with us for more than 20 years.”

Ferrada apparently taunted the lions before they attacked him. Zookeepers first turned a hose on the animals and then fired a tranquilizer dart but hit the man in the neck instead of the lions. The zookeeper then fired live rounds.

He was taken to a local hospital with critical injuries.