Professional photographer Pablo Su captured a lioness attacking a disoriented golden eagle at the Greater Vancouver Zoo Friday afternoon. ((Pablo Su))

A family is recovering from shock after witnessing a lioness kill a trained golden eagle at the Greater Vancouver Zoo.

Pablo Su, his wife Susan and their two children, Michael and Emily, visited the Aldergrove facility on Friday.

Su, a professional photographer, said the attack happened just seconds after a flock of crows chased the eagle into the lion enclosure around 4 p.m.

"There were several of them [crows] that kept attacking it. The eagle was doing its best to ignore them," Su told CBC News Sunday.

The eagle was forced to land on a log inside the lion enclosure, where two lionesses snuck up on it but failed to catch the bird, Su said.

Emily burst into tears when a third lioness successfully caught her prey.


Pablo Su says the attack took place just seconds after the golden eagle was chased into the lion enclosure by crows around 4 p.m. Friday. ((CBC))

"One [lioness] was at this end. The other was at the other end. They tried to catch it but the bird flew away," the six-year-old said.

"But there was a third lioness … it just pounced on it [the eagle] when it was coming down a bit."

The eagle's trainer and another zoo staff member ran to the outside of the lion enclosure after the attack, Su said.

"The bird was still alive as far as we could see, but it wasn't struggling very much — not able to get away from the lion's jaw," he said.

Jody Henderson, a spokesperson for the zoo, said Sunday that there's nothing zoo staff could have done to prevent the incident.

The golden eagle, named Sky, was raised in captivity and sent to the Greater Vancouver Zoo from Ontario less than a year ago. It performed in the zoo's raptor show with other trained golden eagles.

Sky was taking part in a show shortly before being driven away by crows, Henderson said.

"She became obviously very disoriented because she's never been there [the lion enclosure] before, but by this time it was too late. She tried to fly up but the lions were on her in a matter of seconds," she said.

Emily said the killing was "very sad" but her father explained to her that it's the nature of things in the animal kingdom.

Zoo's spider monkey killed in May

The Greater Vancouver Zoo suffered another loss in early May after Jocko, a spider monkey, was killed during a break-in. An autopsy revealed Jocko died after suffering a fractured skull and internal bleeding.

Mia, his female companion, was stolen and has still not been found. The two monkeys were both 17 years old, and had lived at the zoo for 15 years.

Mia is about 1½-feet tall and 24 pounds. She's dark brown with a golden stomach and chest.