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CANBERRA (Reuters) - Staff at an Australian zoo have received hate mail after shooting dead a lioness that escaped from its enclosure near a coastal resort and wandered toward visitors, the zoo owner said on Wednesday.
Visitors to Mogo Zoo, around 280 kms (174 miles) south of Sydney, were locked in safe houses for protection after a nine-year-old lioness named Jameila escaped. Staff were forced to shoot the wandering cat.
"I've never had to make that decision ever in my entire life, in a blink of an eye, and I did yesterday and everybody is safe," zoo owner Sally Padey told state radio.
Padey said she had received hate mail from people upset the animal, much-loved by zoo-goers, was killed rather than disabled with a tranquillizer dart to be re-confined.
"When you've got to make a split decision like I had to yesterday, especially with a lion that's so very dear to me, it's not easy," she said.
Zoo spokesman John Appleby said Jamelia had been raised from birth at the zoo and it was the first escape by one of its star big cats.
"She was moving quite slowly toward a public area, but under the circumstances a decision was made to put her down," Appleby told Australian Associated Press. (Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Bill Tarrant)