A man has been killed by a lion he kept as a pet in a cage in his backyard in the eastern Czech Republic.
Michal Prasek was found mauled to death in the cage after an ongoing conflict with local authorities and residents about keeping big cats on his property. Prasek’s father found him in the cage that was locked from the inside.
Prasek, who was 33, brought the 9-year-old lion from Slovakia in 2016, reports Reuters. He bought a female lion last year, for breeding purposes, keeping them both in separate homemade enclosures on his property in Zdechov, despite being denied planning permission for the enclosures and fined for illegal breeding.
A stalemate was reached with the authorities, however, after he refused to let them onto his property. A lack of evidence of animal cruelty, and the failure to find suitable alternative facilities to move the cats to, meant the animals couldn’t be forcibly removed.
Prasek uploaded hundreds of photos and videos of the lions onto his Facebook page, many featuring him up close and personal with the animals. That he loved them is obvious, but keeping the animals cooped up in homemade pens and illegally breeding them is not the right way to show it.
Both animals were shot by the police on arrival at the scene. A police spokesperson told local media that the shootings were "necessary for them to get to the man," the BBC reports. It appeared he was mauled after letting himself into the lion's cage, though it's not clear how it locked behind him.
"Today's incident will perhaps finally help to resolve this long-term problem," Zdechov’s mayor Tomas Kocourek said.
Mr Prasek also made headlines last year in a bizarre story involving a cyclist who collided with the lioness as Prasek was taking her for a walk on a leash. The incident was recorded by local police as a "traffic accident".
It would be easy to make a joke out of this story, as others have done, but the fact is a man and two lions are now dead. How many stories like this will it take for people to realize the illegal pet trade is illegal for a reason, big cats are not pets, and wild animals should be treated with caution.
Liking Facebook pages, Instagram posts, and YouTube videos of people interacting with animals like big cats without checking the source or situation of the animals – are they rescued, in a reserve or rehabilitation center etc? – only encourages people to keep doing this.
[H/T: BBC News]