Australian zookeeper in critical condition after being mauled by lions

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An ambulance waits at the Shoalhaven Zoo in Nowra, Australia on Friday. A female staff member was attacked this morning by a lion and has been airlifted to Sydney. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

A zookeeper in Australia is in critical condition after being mauled by two lions while cleaning their enclosure on Friday, authorities said.

The 35-year-old woman was bitten in the head and neck in what one paramedic called an “extremely vicious” attack at Shoalhaven Zoo, about 100 miles (162 kilometers) south of Sydney in New South Wales state, CNN affiliate 9 News Australia reported.

Paramedics were called to the facility at about 10:30 a.m. local time, police said in a statement. They arrived to find the woman unconscious in the lion enclosure and needed to enter it to retrieve her safely, according to 9 News Australia.

She was then airlifted to a Sydney hospital in “a critical but stable condition,” police said.

Faye Stockmen, a duty operations manager at NSW Ambulance, told 9 News Australia it was “one of the most frightening experiences” of her career.

“We literally had to walk into a lion’s den,” she said. “This is one of the worst jobs I have ever experienced.”

CNN has reached out to the Shoalhaven Zoo for comment.

The zoo was not open at the time of the incident. It has been closed for several weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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