Reporting Nick Janes
FRESNO COUNTY (CBS) – A female intern was killed Wednesday by a lion at a private wild animal park in Central California.
Authorities were forced to shoot and kill Cous Cous, a nearly 600 pound male African lion, at the Cat Haven animal sanctuary in Dunlap.
“When my deputies arrived on scene the victim was still in the enclosure,” said Fresno sheriff Sgt. Gregg Collins.
A park spokeswoman says 24-year-old Dianna Hanson was mauled in the lion’s pen. Investigators aren’t sure what provoked Cous Cous, but the woman died at the scene.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to our friend and to her family in this trying time,” Cat Haven founder and executive director Dale Anderson said.
Cat Haven is closed Wednesdays and is minimally staffed. The only other worker there couldn’t lure the lion into a different pen. So, deputies shot and killed Cous Cous to get to the victim.
Cous Cous was 4 years old and was raised at the sanctuary since he was an 8-week-old cub.
Opened two decades ago, 40 miles east of Fresno, the exotic animal park has been home to some of the rarest big cats in the world. It’s licensed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and recent inspection records show no violations.
Lt. Tony Spada with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says he has no record of anything like this happening before at the sanctuary.
Now, investigators will take a close look at a deadly mauling making national headlines.
There are still plenty of unanswered questions like what the intern was doing in the lion’s cage and why after years of living here in the company of people the lion went on the attack?
Cat Haven’s founder says they’ll investigate if Hanson and the other worker on-site were following proper protocols.