A 4-year-old is in a critical condition after a lion ripped off her scalp at a lion farm in South Africa.

Dina-Marie de Beer's family were on a holiday at the Weltevrede Lion Farm on Sunday when they were told not to stand too close to the fence.

But while in her father's arms, a lion put her paws through the fence, swiping at the child with the claws going through her skull and ripping her scalp off.

Her dad Pieter was left with minor injuries when the lion managed to grab him at the same time.

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The family were reportedly visiting the farm to take part in lion cub petting, an activity discouraged by animal welfare activists.

Dina is now in a critical condition in hospital with part of her skull reportedly removed in a bid to relieve pressure on her brain.

A tour guide at the farm told the Independent, Dina and her dad "got a bit too close, the lion grabbed her through the fence", adding he hoped she would have "a quick recovery".

The manager of the farm, Charlene van Wyk, called the incident a "freak accident" and said that rules clearly state visitors shouldn't stand too close to the fence.

New signs have been put up at the lion farm following the attack. Photo / Weltevrede Lion Farm
New signs have been put up at the lion farm following the attack. Photo / Weltevrede Lion Farm
New signs have been put up at the lion farm following the attack. Photo / Weltvrede Lion Farm
New signs have been put up at the lion farm following the attack. Photo / Weltvrede Lion Farm

Following the attack new signs have since been placed around the park warning viewers not to get too close the fences.

WELTEVREDE LION FARM ATTACKS

In 2010 two sisters were attacked by lionesses at the same farm.

According to reports at the time, the youngest girl bent down to pet one of the lions, when an 8-month-old lioness jumped on her from behind and got hold of her ponytail.

Another lioness bit the older sister on her buttocks as her mother was carrying the girl on her hip.

Upwards of 8000 captive-bred lions are kept in 260 or more breeding facilities across South Africa, where they are exploited for profit at every stage of their lives. Cubs are removed from their mothers at two weeks old and tourists pay to pet them.

Older lions are then either shot in canned hunts or slaughtered so their bones can be exported to use in Asian medicines.