Intern Mauled to Death at Big Cat Sanctuary

Dianna Hanson had started California internship in January
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2013 7:18 AM CST
This Oct. 12, 2012 photo shows a 4-year-old male African lion named Couscous at Cat Haven, a private wild animal park in Dunlap, Calif. Couscous reportedly killed an intern yesterday at the sanctuary.   (AP Photo/JP Marketing, Vicken Massoyan)
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(Newser) – Tragedy in California yesterday, where a 24-year-old was mauled to death by a lion at a big cat sanctuary. The AP identifies the victim as Dianna Hanson, an intern at Project Survival's Cat Haven whose father described her as "absolutely fearless." The Los Angeles Times reports on a still-perplexing series of events: Hanson, who had only been interning since January, was one of just two volunteers at the 93-acre park yesterday around noon, the time at which the lions, tigers, cheetahs, and jaguars are reportedly fed. Fresno County police received word of the attack around 12:30pm; deputies shot and killed the lion as they attempted to rescue Hanson, who was declared dead at the scene.

The Times explains that the standard procedure is to leave the food in a small enclosure, exit it, then allow the animals to enter in from the larger space they inhabit. Per the sanctuary's guidelines, Hanson should never have been in the enclosure when the animals were, and it's still unclear why or how that occurred. Police say the other volunteer attempted to coax the lion, a 4-year-old male named Cous Cous, away from Hanson. The facility has been in operation for 20 years and has generally received good grades from inspectors, notes the AP. (Read more Dianna Hanson stories.)

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