A vulture was mauled to death by two lions at Colchester Zoo in front of a crowd of spectators after a flying performance went wrong.
The incident on Sunday happened after the trainer released the bird, called Yatsey, into the air, only for it to fly towards the lions' enclosure and get caught in the roof netting.
Acting out of instinct, the lioness then grabbed the bird into the enclosure.
Yatsey suffered from a puncture wound which vets initially thought would be treatable, however he later died from the shock.
The zoo described Yatsey, who was 22, as "a big personality" and "a much-loved member of the displays team".
Onlookers used social media to describe their horror at the "sad and traumatic" incident.
One witness praised the team at Colchester Zoo who "were fantastic in clearing the area of visitors and attending to the situation straight away".
Another suggested: "Having witnessed this yesterday please move the display or put a metal cage on the roof as the netting wasn't sufficient enough for such a heavy bird to lift off."
A spokesman for Colchester Zoo said: "Keepers acted quickly and effectively to get the lions into their inside enclosure to prevent them from causing further harm.
"The keepers of the displays team had built a very close bond with Yatsey, as they do with all the animals in their care, and so this is a very sad time for them.
"Our thoughts are with Yatsey's dedicated keepers whilst they are in mourning of their very sad loss.
"We would like to thank all those who have passed on their condolences and their support."