Lion that escaped Georgia zoo ‘mauls man to death’

Workers clean an area around the flooded zoo in Tbilisi. Picture: AP

Workers clean an area around the flooded zoo in Tbilisi. Picture: AP

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A LION that escaped from a Georgian zoo following flash floods has reportedly mauled a man to death.

The news follows the zoo’s confirmation that all of the lions and tigers that were missing after severe flooding swamped Tbilisi’s zoo have been found dead. One jaguar remained unaccounted for, but zoo staff said they have little hope that it survived.

Begi the hippo is led up the street after being tranquilised. Picture: AP

Begi the hippo is led up the street after being tranquilised. Picture: AP

The discovery of the last of the missing lions and tigers on Tuesday as the waters receded eased fears in the capital of Georgia that some of the big cats were still wandering the hills of the city.

The human death toll rose to 19 on Tuesday as workers continued to comb the flood-damaged areas. Six people were still missing, the state security council said in a statement.

An intense downpour that began late Saturday turned a stream that runs through the city into a raging torrent that destroyed houses and tore up roads. About 40 families lost their homes.

Zoo spokeswoman Mziya Sharashidze said eight lions, all seven of the zoo’s tigers and at least two of its three jaguars were killed. Only two of the zoo’s 14 bears survived, while nine of its 17 penguins died, she said.

Ivane Daraseliya, chief veterinarian for the zoo, said staff on Tuesday found the carcasses of three lions, a tiger and two wolves. Most of the animals appeared to have been killed when water and mud inundated their enclosures.

However, a young white lion named Shumba, one of the zoo’s most beloved attractions, was found shot in the head on zoo territory on Sunday.

The flooding also killed hundreds of homeless dogs at a private shelter near the zoo, shelter staff said.

Reports from the Caucasus said that police special forces have been deployed to track down the lion that reportedly killed the man.

Astonishing images from the Georgian capital have shown groups of men leading a tranquilised hippo named Begi up a street, while a crocodile was rescued from muddy water flowing through the city.

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