The Greater Vancouver Zoo had a brush with a brutal side of nature when lions pounced on a trained golden eagle belonging to the zoo's raptor show.

The eagle escaped the predators' first attack from its perch high up in the lions' cage in the Aldergrove, B.C. facility -- but it flew straight into the jaws of a lioness, shocking visitors.

"My family got to witness nature at its savage best, up close and personal," zoo visitor Pablo Su wrote in an e-mail to CTV News. "My daughter is still so shaken up by the whole thing."

It's another tragedy for the zoo, which is still recovering from the death of Jocko the spider monkey, who was beaten and killed when his cage was broken into in May.

Jocko's mate Mia was stolen in the break-in and has yet to be found. The zoo has posted a $3,000 reward for the information leading to Mia's safe return.

The incident began on Friday at about 4 p.m., Pablo said. The four-year-old eagle had strayed from its course and was perched on a log about 10 feet up in the lions' enclosure, he said.

"A few crows took exception to the invasion and started harassing the eagle by aggressively swooping down on it," he said.

"Suddenly I noticed that two of the lionesses had snuck up on the whole scene with amazing quickness and stealth. They jumped on the log attempting to attack the eagle, but missed.

"The eagle managed to fly away but right into the waiting jaws of a third lioness, who pounced on it with astonishing speed and agility," he said.

The handlers arrived within seconds, but they were too late to save the eagle.

Zoo officials told reporters that the eagle had been raised in captivity and sent to the Greater Vancouver Zoo barely a year ago from Ontario.