A lion killed a lioness at the Dallas Zoo over the weekend, crushing the female's neck with its powerful jaw as families and other Sunday visitors looked on.
Zoo officials were unable to explain what triggered the seemingly unprovoked attack.
"We've had, you know a few incidents of rough play, but nothing out of the ordinary," Lynn Kramer, a veterinarian vice president of animal operations and welfare at the Dallas Zoo told ABC News' local affiliate WFAA
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"I've been in the zoo business over 35 years," Kramer added. "I've worked in five major zoos, and I've never seen a cat kill another cat before."
Michael Henshaw and Jim Harvey observed the fatal attack, which they say occurred at the Savanna exhibit around 2:15 p.m. Sunday.
"At first you think they're playing; then you realize he's killing her... and you’re watching it," Henshaw told WFAA. "You just can't believe your eyes."
"The male lion that started it just had his mouth over her throat, and everyone thought they were playing at first," Harvey said. "But then they could see she was struggling."
"[The lion] just lay beside her and held her by the neck for like 10 minutes... just holding it there, waiting until it quit moving," witness Dylan Parker added.
Shortly after the attack, zoo security arrived and reportedly pushed people away from the exhibit.
Nicknamed Jo-Jo, the lioness, recently celebrated her fifth birthday, Reuters reported
"Johari helped usher in a time of exciting changes at the Dallas Zoo," Kramer said in a press release. "She was part of the grand opening of the Giants of the Savanna in 2010, along with her sisters, Josiri and Lina. She was very smart and often was the first to pick up on new training measures that allowed our veterinarian staff to monitor their health."
According to the Dallas Zoo, the two male lions – Denari and Kamaia, which were brothers and also 5 years old, were not euthanized or even tranquilized following the attack, but rather were relocated to another enclosure at the zoo.
On Monday, the two surviving lionesses will return to the enclosure where their sister was killed. It was not reported whether or not the other two lionesses were in the enclosure at the time of the attack.
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Zoo spokeswoman Laurie Holloway told the Dallas News on Sunday that there are no immediate plans to return the male lions
to the same enclosure.
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