Woman mauled by wolves while jogging in French safari park

Wolves lurking outside a hut at Thoiry Zoo
Wolves lurking outside a hut at Thoiry Zoo

A woman suffered serious injuries after she was attacked by three wolves while jogging at a luxury zoo lodge in France.

The 37-year-old from Paris was bitten on her neck, calf and back at the Wow Safari Thoiry, about 25 miles west of the French capital, while going for a run alone in a safari area in which access is restricted to visitors in cars, prosecutors said.

It’s unclear why the victim was in the restricted area in the first place.

“I am not able to say if it was she who made a mistake or if the marking was not well done,” said local prosecutor Maryvonne Caillibotte, adding that zookeepers were quick to intervene and rescue her from the wolves.

“The animals were moved away and returned to their area,” she said.

Christelle Bercheny, the Wow Safari Thoiry president, said that the victim passed through the entrance to the “American zone”, the designated habitat  for bears, coyotes and Mackenzie grey wolves.

An electric security perimeter prevents animals from leaving the area, but doesn’t restrict humans from entering it, Ms Bercheny said.

But she was quick to add that guests were given clear instructions on the dangers of the area.

“They have a map, staff keep them informed, and a reminder is constantly given,” she said.

Ms Bercheny said she’s launched an internal investigation to analyse the chain of events that could have led to the incident.

“Thankfully, our zookeepers were quick to intervene and we were able to save her,” Ms Bercheny said.

An Arctic wolf at Thoiry zoo, near Paris
An Arctic wolf at Thoiry zoo, near Paris

The unnamed victim was staying in one of the on-site overnight lodges, called “dens”, with her mother and baby. The accommodation was created to allow visitors to spend the night close to the animals.

Built above the animal reserve, the dens are equipped with a king-size bed and come with night vision binoculars.

As part of the experience, guests are provided a bag of apples to throw down to the bears and cubs, a barbecue dinner, and chaperoned night walks with a ranger.

An Arctic wolf at Thoiry zoo, like the ones that attacked the woman
An Arctic wolf at Thoiry zoo, like the ones that attacked the woman

“From the top of the dens, you overlook the baribal bears, bison and coyotes of the American Zone in a minimalist and unusual setting,” reads the promotional material on the website.

Rates for the dens average €420 (£355) a night in summer.

In order to gain access to the enclosure, the victim would have had to pass two security systems, a ditch and an electrical deterrent, designed to prevent the animals from getting out.

An investigation has been launched by the Mantes-la-Jolie gendarmerie research brigade.

Ms Bercheny said: “Thankfully, our zookeepers were quick to intervene and we were able to save her. We’ve launched an internal investigation with the prosecutor and we’re analysing the chain of events.”

Opened in 1968 by local chateau owner Paul de la Panouse, the Thoiry zoo and safari houses 1,500 animals, representing 180 species, including 60 endangered ones across 150 hectares.

It claims to have been the first safari to open in France.

De la Panouse recalled to regional newspaper L’Independant in April how he initially stocked the zoo with a ship loaded with 120 animals brought from Kenya.

He sold the zoo to a group of investors in 2018.

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