Lions that mauled a zookeeper in South Korea now live in sanctuary in Colorado

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KEENSBURG, Colo. – Three lions that were sentenced to death are now getting a second chance at life in Colorado.

At least one of those lions mauled a zookeeper to death in South Korea back in 2015. The tragic accident reportedly happened because someone left a door unlocked.

The two lions were taken off exhibit and placed in rooms in the back of the zoo, where they eventually had a cub.

“They ended up spending almost three years in those locked rooms never seeing daylight,” Pat Craig, Executive Director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary told FOX31. “It was kind of like being in maximum security prison.”

The lions were essentially on death row.

“The family there had the right to say whether these live or died and they preferred that the lions be put down,” Craig said.

While it’s the family’s right, the zoo in South Korea and the Wild Animal Sanctuary agreed killing them wasn’t the right thing to do.

“This was a situation of a captive lion doing what he normally does and so not really fair to him or especially the other two that had nothing to do with killing this person,” Craig said.

On June 26, a team from the Wild Animal Sanctuary arrived in South Korea. Within two days they were on a flight back to the United States with the lions.

“Their life was on the line,” Craig said.

While he says no one wanted to disrespect the victim’s family, he believes now that the lions are on the other side of the globe, it’s a win-win for everyone.

“I think that everybody there, once they’re gone, will kind of breathe easier and not have to worry about that whole tension,” Craig said.

The lions will live in a 15 acre enclosure at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keensburg.

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