A middle-aged man, stated to be mentally disturbed, on Friday jumped into the lion enclosure at the Nandankanan Zoological Park here. He sustained serious injuries after a lioness attacked him.

Within minutes of the lioness pouncing on the man, zoo personnel managed to rescue him. The man was rushed to a medical college hospital where he was declared out of danger.

The incident occurred around 1.10 p.m. when hundreds of tourists were moving around the zoo. The person, identified as Surya Narayan Das (45) of Khalikote, Ganjam district, entered the lion enclosure (29-D) before tourists could understand what was happening.

Das reportedly told zoo officials that he had quarrelled with his wife. “The man was apparently trying to end his life by entering into lion enclosure. We have encountered such a bizarre incident for the first time in the zoo. He was fortunate that the pair of lion and lioness were born and raised in captive. They do not know how to hunt,” said Chitta Rajan Mishra, Assistant Director.

Eyewitnesses said Das crossed three fences — one stand-off barrier, a plant hedge and the moat. As soon as he climbed down to the moat, the lioness pounced on him.

Tourists raised an alarm and zookeepers and the watch and ward personnel came to the man’s rescue. After the zookeepers shouted loudly, the animals let off Das, who was profusely bleeding. The animals waited at a distance. But the keepers did not lose patience and kept on diverting the attention of the animals. After a while they could herd the animals into the feeding chamber. Subsequently, the man was rescued.

“Marks of injuries caused by lioness with her claws were all over the body of person. For a moment we thought he had died. However, the man regained sense while being rushed to hospital,” a zoo official said.

The authorities have decided to keep a close watch on the movement of tourists and at the same time strengthen the enclosures. Zoo officials were kept on their toes by a rumour that the lioness had slipped out of the enclosure.