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JM | May 22, 2022

‘Silly, cruel and stupid’: JSPCA boss slams Jamaica Zoo lion-taunting incident

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today

Horrific scenes of a man losing his finger to an enraged male lion at a Jamaican zoo as visitors unknowingly watch. (Photos taken from social media video | Twitter @OneciaG)

Pamela Lawson, managing director of the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA), is today (May 22) condemning the actions of a Jamaica Zoo attendant, who had his right ring finger degloved by a lion. 

Lawson, speaking with Our Today this morning, claimed the agitated lion attack was indicative of the operating culture of Jamaica Zoo, where animal welfare and safety are neglected for entertainment and profit. 

As a viral video of the shocking incident amassed millions of views on social media and triggered widespread backlash toward the Lacovia-based facility, she renewed a call for the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) to immediately intervene, though holding no hope as previous reports of animal abuse at Jamaica Zoo remain unsanctioned. 

“What drives people to be so silly, cruel and stupid? This was worth it right? So people can have a show? It warrants this man, for all I know his keeper—the person who should be protecting the lion—to torment the animal?” she asked. 

Pamela Lawson, managing director of the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JPSCA).

Lawson told Our Today she has other video clips of similar incidents that suggest animal abuse is pervasive at Jamaica Zoo, located in St Elizabeth.

“This is the kind of behaviour that is tolerated at Jamaica Zoo? Actually, I have video footage to confirm that it is. What has NEPA, who has direct oversight, done about this?” she queried further.

“This is not the first complaint or incident that NEPA has received about this zoo…by no means! Yet nothing appears to be done to correct [it]. I must urge NEPA to finally take some definitive action and with immediate effect,”  Lawson argued.

For Lawson, the 26-second video, posted by Twitter user @OneciaG, highlighting the tour exhibition gone wrong, the actions of the injured Jamaica Zoo attendant sets a dangerous precedent. 

The JSPCA managing director argued that Government is duty-bound to explore pressing changes against Jamaica Zoo. Lawson is maintaining the need for swift action as a repeat could spell the end for the enraged lion, whose fate is uncertain at this time.

“If there was legally a charge that can be levied, I would deem the keeper’s actions as reckless endangerment. Is this what he shows visitors to the zoo as acceptable? What do you do now when a child imitates this fool and gets seriously injured or dies?” she said.

“Let me tell you what happens, the animal is [put down]!” the animal advocate added.

Lawson lamented her disappointment and frustration at Jamaica Zoo, as it continued to pander to the whims of entertainment ‘like a circus’, rather than ensuring its animals are cared for and happy. 

A Jamaica Zoo owner Paul Fearon giving visitors a close-up glimpse of a Ball Python** in October 2011. (Photo: Facebook @JamaicaZoo)

In fact, as recently as February 2022, Jamaica Zoo has published YouTube videos of its tours, showing where lions are routinely ‘excited’ on camera for the entertainment value, despite the precarious fencing separating the massive predators from the vulnerable thrill-seekers.

The attendant, speaking on the record, indicated that Jamaica Zoo houses two male lions, who are siblings.

WATCH:

“I am very upset and disappointed by this irresponsibility. This zoo is operating like it is still in the dark ages. It should be promoting responsibility, animal welfare and environmental welfare to name just some of the issues and concerns [today],” Lawson remarked.

“Apparently, these people are children playing grown-up. To the detriment of the animals who depend on them for their care and well-being,” she argued.

After failing to respond yesterday to repeated requests by Our Today, Jamaica Zoo, this morning, confirmed that the now-viral incident did take place on its premises. 

The condition of the injured zoo attendant was not disclosed, however, Jamaica Zoo committed to responding to a series of questions posed by Our Today.

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*NB: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the snake pictured was a Jamaican Boa.

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