Zion Wildlife Gardens safety ‘inadequate'

SAFETY CONCERNS RAISED: Clifford (Dalu) Mncube
SAFETY CONCERNS RAISED: Clifford (Dalu) Mncube

A man mauled by a tiger repeatedly told park management about his safety concerns in the weeks before his death, a court heard yesterday.

Clifford (Dalu) Mncube was killed by Bengal white tiger Abu on May 27, 2009, while cleaning out an enclosure at Zion Wildlife Gardens in Whangarei.

Giving evidence at the coroner's inquest in Whangarei District Court yesterday, Mr Mncube's fiancee, Sharon Arnott, said she met him in March 2007 and shortly afterwards asked to see the wildlife park to allay her fears. However, her visit only amplified them.

Mr Mncube asked her to be his lookout while he cleaned out an enclosure containing four lions.

When Ms Arnott asked him what to do in an emergency he told her she should use a fire extinguisher to scare the lion.

When she pointed out the nearest one was inside a nearby pen, he suggested instead that she run her hand along the fence to make a noise to distract any potential attacks.

“It's really amazing nothing happened sooner,” she told the court.

Away from work Mr Mncube told Ms Arnott the staff were not quite up to the task and he needed a capable “backup man”. But when he took his request to park director Patricia Busch, she told him there were no available funds.

Mr Mncube had a valid work permit but was in the country on a false passport, a fact known to both Ms Busch and the former operator of the park, her son Craig “Lion Man” Busch.

“His position was he did as he was told and if he didn't he would be deported,” Ms Arnott's lawyer, Juliet Golightly, said.

Immigration had been in touch with Mr Mncube in the weeks leading up to his death and it is understood he thought he would be deported.

Ms Golightly took aim at those Ms Arnott believed were responsible.

“It's not just park management to blame for that. There were two government agencies directly involved with the park at this time because there had been previous trouble.”

The inquest is expected to end today.

Fairfax Media