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Pakistan zoo shut down after man mauled to death by tigers, shoe found in tiger's mouth: Officials

Warning: Distressing content ahead.

A man was mauled to death by tigers in a Pakistan zoo prompting authorities to shut down the zoo Thursday as they investigate the incident, local media outlet Geo News reported. The body was reportedly discovered on Wednesday during a routine cleaning of the enclosure when a staff member spotted a shoe in one of the tiger's mouths.

Authorities at Bahawalpur Zoo in the province of Punjab told Dawn News on Friday that the deceased was identified as 28-year-old Muhammad Bilawal from Lahore. The Bahawalpur police told the media outlet that the deceased's father Muhammad Javed had been informed about the incident, and that he is en route to Bahawalpur to collect the body.

This picture taken on December 6, 2023 shows a covered dead body of a man who was mauled to death by tigers in a zoo in Bahawalpur district, in the eastern province of Punjab.
This picture taken on December 6, 2023 shows a covered dead body of a man who was mauled to death by tigers in a zoo in Bahawalpur district, in the eastern province of Punjab.

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Bilawal's father told Dawn News that his son struggled with addiction and had been in rehabilitation twice. He further said that Bilawal had a history of disappearing from home and returning a few days later. The man was also reportedly involved in three cases, said the media outlet though they did not state the nature of those cases.

Punjab's Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi and Commissioner Bahawalpur have constituted separate committees to investigate if there was a breach in security or negligence by zoo employees, reported Geo News.

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Man mauled to death is presumed to have jumped in tiger enclosure, officials say

Authorities suspect that the attack may have happened late Tuesday night, given the condition of the body, according to AFP.

"The autopsy report has not been released, however evidence gathered from the enclosure points towards him being alive when he was attacked by the tigers," senior officer of the province's wildlife department Ali Usman Bukhari had told AFP on Wednesday. "The tigers did not go out of the den to attack the man, he jumped into their enclosure. "

Senior local government official Zaheer Anwar while speaking to the media outside the zoo said that the victim may have been a "lunatic".

"Our assessment so far is that this appears to be a lunatic, because a sensible person would not jump into the den," Anwar said, according to AFP. "You can see the den is secured. There are stairs behind the den, maybe he jumped from there."

An official of the rescue service 1122 in Bahawalpur told AFP that the victim’s legs had been heavily mauled.

The three tigers present in the den when the body was discovered have been moved to a separate enclosure while evidence is collected.

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History of Bahawalpur Zoo

Established in 1942, the Bahawalpur Zoo is a is the fourth biggest zoo in Pakistan. It was set up by the ruling royal family of the former princely state of Bahawalpur and then named "Sher Bagh," meaning "lion garden," according to the zoo's official website.

The zoo houses a variety of animals, including stuffed ones, in different styled cages and enclosures.

"Lions, tigers, and hyenas are housed in more modern moated enclosures," says the zoo.

Bilawal's death comes just days after a zookeeper was mauled to death by a black bear at India's Indira Gandhi Zoological Park. The incident happened after the staffer accidentally left the night house doors open while cleaning the enclosure, reported Times of India.

Saman Shafiq is a trending news reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at sshafiq@gannett.com and follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter @saman_shafiq7.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pakistan Zoo shut down after man mauled to death by tigers: Officials