msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 7/12/2011 5:47:17 PM ET 2011-07-12T21:47:17

A 20-year-old Mormon missionary from Utah is in a Guatemalan hospital with serious arm and leg injuries after being mauled by two lions at a zoo.

A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says doctors are still evaluating Paul Richard Oakey's condition after he was rushed to a hospital Monday to undergo emergency surgery.

Church spokesman Scott Trotter says Oakey was attacked by two lions when he stood too close to an exhibit at a Guatemalan zoo while trying to get a photo.

Oakey's stepfather Jonathan Allen told The Spectrum that his son had climbed a tall concrete wall in front of the lion cage and stood much higher off the ground from the spectator side of the enclosure than the lion side. When he turned his back to have his picture taken, the animals snuck up behind him.

One of the lions then reached through the cage and grabbed his right leg, while the other animal went for his left arm, the website reported. Another missionary came to his aid, before zookeepers arrived and fired shots into the air.

Allen said his son lost about five pints of blood and suffered heavy arterial bleeding from the arm injury. "Doctors say they expect a full recovery," he told The Spectrum.

Trotter says Oakey has been in Guatemala for 19 months serving in the Guatemala City South Mission. He is from St. George, Utah.

Church officials say their thoughts and prayers are with Oakey and his family. It was not yet known whether Oakey would complete his mission or return home.

The Associated Press and The Spectrum contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Spectrum contributed to this report.

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