3yo also mauled at lion park
Thu, 04 Oct 2012 6:07p.m.
By Amanda Gillies
This week's inquest into a big cat handler mauled to death by a tiger has brought back painful memories for an Auckland family.
The Hughes family visited the Zion Wildlife Park six years ago. Their trip was organised after their dad was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and was supposed to be a special time for the family.
Instead they ended up at hospital after their three-year-old was mauled by a lion.
Ethan Hughes is an adventurous boy. He's into everything and not afraid of much, except lions and tigers.
“I don't like them,” he says, “because one attacked me.”
In 2006 his dad was diagnosed with a brain tumour and told he had less than a year to live, so he treated the family to a special day at the Zion Wildlife Park.
Ethan's mum and older brother signed up to pat the lions, filling out a safety waiver.
But then the zoo handler, Dalu Mncube, asked if Ethan wanted to pat a cub. Ethan tried but was scared, and asked his dad to pick him up.
“The cub swung around and grabbed Ethan with his front paws and pulled him to the ground,” says mother Nicola Hughes.
His dad didn't want to pull back too hard, fearing Ethan would lose his leg, so instead he crouched over his son while Mr Mncube and two co-workers – one armed with a spade – dragged the one-year-old lion away.
“I turned around, dropped everything, dove in and punched this thing in the mouth,” says Ms Hughes. “I got a tooth in my hand. But I just kept punching it.”
Ethan, oozing blood and flesh from his legs, was admitted to hospital and underwent surgery.
“Peter, who had just had a brain operation, was lying on the floor of the hospital beside Ethan's bed so he could look after him,” says Ms Hughes.
She says the park's owner at the time, 'Lion Man’ Craig Busch, was informed but they never heard from him or saw him.
Ms Hughes says that makes her feel “pretty angry”.
“And it has done since the day it happened,” she says.
She wanted to speak out back then but her husband said no. He didn't want to hurt the popular Lion Man's image.
Peter Hughes eventually died in May 2009, a day after Mr Mncube was mauled to death by a tiger at the park.
Craig Busch is now back working there, and Ms Hughes says that also makes her angry.
“It angers me knowing that he is back at the park and he's doing it all again, he just doesn't care.”
Craig Busch wouldn’t return calls from 3 News about the incident.
But Ms Hughes has kept the blood-stained and torn shorts her son wore on the day he was attacked, and Ethan still has the scars.
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26/12/2012 5:46:46 p.m.
jess smith wrote:
although sad and must of been horrific for this family and that of dalu's lions and tigers alike, well all big cats are unpredictable animals, they risk there life every time they share space with these amazing animals, when people swim with sharks they do it off there own back and if a shark was to attack would they blame the safety diver? there are always risks and unfortunately these things are inevitable, when dalu got killed it was such a shame they shot the tiger, when there is something wrong these animals react in the only way they can and thats to fight back, its ment as a warning but they are so strong and i honestly believe there intension is not to kill, if it was with 2 lions/tigers they would scrap 1 would submit and they would part, a few scratches and a bit of blood, as when you were kids and youd play fight with a friend 1 mite get a little scratch, thats all it is to big cats and they dont know how fragile we are as humans. i LOVE cats and would love to touch one but i would never let my kids do it, i would do it knowing full well what mite happen and that it would only be my fault if anything did. i hope this little boy isnt tramatised for the rest of his life.
7/10/2012 12:15:05 a.m.
So they signed a 'safety waver', Zion & Craig could not have someone simply waive their rights under law. So why weren't authorities notified, why did these people agree to cover this up until now?
6/10/2012 8:56:29 a.m.
And the moral of the story is: dont f**k with dangerous animals.
5/10/2012 9:08:59 a.m.
It is horrible what happened to the little boy but, i don't think Craig should be blamed as it was Dahlu who was handling the Lion CUB, the cub would of seen the boy as a toy and that the dad was taking it away from it, these animals are wild and children should not be allowed near them....
5/10/2012 3:36:59 a.m.
This is of course a very sad tale, but when you play with lions....what do you expect.
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