Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lion dies after eating rubber ball

A lion at a Nevada zoo died after eating part of a rubber ball.

What troubles Dingle, with the zoo 29 years, isn't so much that Midas died. It's the circumstances.

The week before, zookeepers discovered a half-eaten rubber football in the lion exhibit. Dingle believes the lion died as a result of eating the ball.

The exhibit's fence borders the back lot of a Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada thrift store. Dingle said store employees have a history of tossing unwanted items into the exhibit and dumping waste next to the fence. "They (the lions) dig up the ground right by that fence, trying to get at the stuff those guys dump," he said.

Once he discovered a pool of bubbling chemicals that had drained into the hole, which he said has to be refilled with dirt constantly.

After securing the lions and removing the chemicals, Dingle confronted a thrift store employee to ask if he'd dumped the waste.

"He said, 'Yeah, we always dump it there.' I gave him a piece of my mind about that, and they stopped," he said.

Although Dingle said he's complained many times to store employees, Leslie Carmine, community relations coordinator for Catholic Charities, said the information hadn't gotten back to executive management.

Catholic Charities is conducting its own investigation into the matter, including complaint history.

"We don't know the truth yet," she said. "That's part of the investigation. ... It is a real unfortunate tragedy."

Carmine said there's been a history of trespassing at the store, and employees have had to contact police.

"People break in and go through our dumpster, which is near the corner where the lion cage is located," she said.

Because no one saw the rubber football tossed into the exhibit, Dingle can't pinpoint a particular person.

But because of the history, he said he's sure.

"I don't believe in coincidences," he said.

How horrible for the lion to die from something totally preventable.

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