The owner of a South African lion farm has conceded that the big cats in his charge sometimes "play a little rough," but an incident at the farm Sunday went far beyond play, leaving a 4-year-old girl in bad shape after one of the lions reached through a fence, tore her scalp off, and put its claws through her skull. The Independent and New Zealand Herald report on the horrific attack at the Weltevrede Lion Farm, where little Dina-Marie de Beer was with her family after they'd stopped there to pet lion cubs, a popular offering at the farm. Dina-Marie's father, Pieter, was reportedly holding her near one of the barricades, and a tour guide tells the Independent that the dad "got a bit too close [and] the lion grabbed him through the fence."
While the elder de Beer was barely hurt, Dina-Marie wasn't so lucky. She was said to be in critical condition, with part of her skull removed Monday to ease brain pressure. News24 reports she remains in an induced coma. Via the Independent, Netwerk24 reports a man was similarly attacked through the fence at the farm just a week earlier, while in 2010, lionesses went after two sisters, who sustained bite wounds. The manager of the farm tells the news outlet the incident was a "freak accident" and adds that not only are the farm's rules on not getting too close to the animals made clear to all visitors, but Dina-Marie's family was personally warned. Dina-Marie's father tells the Independent it looks like a long road ahead of her in healing. (Read more animal attack stories.)