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Volunteer killed by lion at California zoo

The victim has been identified as 24-year-old Dianna Hanson.

CousCous, the lion involved in the attack. He was shot dead so emergency services could reach the victim.
CousCous, the lion involved in the attack. He was shot dead so emergency services could reach the victim.
Image: Amy Hemeon via Facebook

A 24-YEAR-OLD woman has died after being attacked by a lion at an exotic animal park in the Sierra Nevada foothills of remote Central California.

The volunteer intern was mauled to death in the lion’s enclosure yesterday.

Identified as Dianna Hanson of Brier, Washington, she was just a few weeks on the job when the tragic incident occurred.

Authorities say the intern was attacked and killed when she entered the male African lion’s enclosure at Cat Haven about 45 miles east of Fresno.

The county sheriff’s lieutenant Bob Miller said deputies responded to an emergency call from the zoo and found the woman severely injured. They had to shoot the animal to reach the victim but she died at the scene. The lion did not survive.

Her father Paul Hanson, a Seattle-area attorney, said he drove his daughter from her home on New Year’s Day so she could begin her job at Cat Haven.

Founder and executive director Dale Anderson was crying as he read a one-sentence statement about the fatalality at the zoo he has operated since 1993.

He said Project Survival would investigate to see if the intern and the other worker who was on-site followed the group’s protocols.

“We take every precaution to ensure the safety of our staff, animals and guests.”

Investigators are trying to determine why the intern was inside the enclosure and what might have provoked the attack, sheriff’s Sgt. Greg Collins said. The facility is normally closed on Wednesdays, and only one other worker was there when the mauling happened.

The male African lion, a four-year-old male named Couscous, had been raised at Cat Haven since it was a cub, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival, the nonprofit that operates the animal park.

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