A PET barn owl performing for children at a British zoo was clubbed in mid-air by a lion, ripped to pieces and devoured.
Ash the owl (pictured) was one of the stars of a stunning bird display at Colchester Zoo, in Essex and had performed hundreds of times with her handlers.
But on Saturday she was spooked by a camera flash and smashed into a widow. Dazed by the collision she flew to the lion enclosure but was clawed from the air by a lioness before five-year-old, 550lb, male lion Bailey ate her as horrified zoo visitors looked on.
One eye witness said: “People were screaming, especially the children. At first I thought maybe it was part of the show but not when the bird was being torn to pieces.”
The crowd was moved on and the area closed off as zoo keepers tried to restore order. Ash was one of a handful of barn owls that had been bred in captivity at Colchester.
Marketing director Alex Downing said: “Although she landed on the side of the enclosure, she very sadly lost her footing and fell in, whereupon she was killed by one of the lions.
“Everyone is obviously extremely upset about such a combination of events but there is nothing that anyone could have done at the time to avoid such an awful outcome.
“In 25 years of falconry displays a fatality has never occurred as the birds do normally instinctively know that this isn’t a safe place to go.
Unfortunately, we can only assume that it was because she was dazed that she flew across the enclosure.”