A man in a blue shirt is on all fours, and purposefully moving towards the corner of the woods that he’s in – not just any woods, but a lion’s enclosure in a zoo. Just as he moves towards the edge of the camera’s frame, seemingly looking for the lion, another man – in a khaki uniform – sprints to him and stops him, dragging him back towards the people who are filming the sequence on their cell phone cameras, and shouting warnings. Moments later, four more uniformed officials reach the spot, and drag him out of the enclosure before anything untoward could happen.
This was the scene at the Thiruvananthapuram zoo on Wednesday, where a visitor had jumped the fence to enter a lion’s enclosure. The man was later identified as 45-year-old Murugan Thonippadath – a resident of Ottapalam, who was reported missing from his home on February 18.
According to the police, Murugan is mentally ill, and is believed to have been under the influence of alcohol when he jumped into the lion’s enclosure.
Police officials said that it was around 11.45 am that Murugan jumped into the enclosure at the zoo. Luckily, an alert visitor who witnessed the scene immediately raised an alarm.
The security personnel at the zoo jumped into action quickly, and Murugan was saved before he could get near the lion. They also reportedly distracted the lion while Murugan was in the enclosure so that he wouldn’t come in harm’s way.
Speaking to TNM, Anil, the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo Superintendent, said that the incident occurred despite of security measures taken by the zoo authorities.
“We have put up a 5 foot iron fence to ensure the safety of the visitors. And this comes before the actual lion enclosure. Murugan had jumped the fence and then went into the enclosure. Security guards had to put their lives at risk to save Murugan. It was the timely action from the officials that saved him,” said Anil.
After the zoo workers rescued Murugan, he was handed over to the police.
Speaking to TNM, a Sub-Inspector at Museum station said that Murugan was suffering from a mental illness and that he had gone missing from Ottapalam a few days ago.
"He was under the influence of alcohol when he entered the lion's enclosure. His family had filed a missing complaint on February 18 at Ottapalam police station. We have admitted him to the general hospital, his family is on their way to get him. No case has been registered against Murugan."
A fire-fighting team also pitched in to rescue Murugan, said a police official.