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Thursday
Mar072013

Intern Killed by Lion at California Sanctuary Identified

A male lion (pictured here) killed a person at the Sierra Cat Haven in Dunlap, CA on March 6. ABC News(DUNLAP, Calif.) -- California state wildlife officials say they will perform a necropsy on the 4-year-old African lion that attacked and killed a female volunteer intern Wednesday afternoon at a big cat sanctuary in Fresno County.

Authorities say the woman was attacked at Project Survival’s Cat Haven when she entered the lion’s enclosure around 12:30 p.m. local time.

Deputies from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene and shot and killed the lion.  A spokesperson for Project Survival said the lion was named Cous Cous and had been hand-raised at the sanctuary since he was eight weeks old.

ABC News has learned the victim is 24-year-old Dianna Hanson.  She was two months into a six-month internship at Cat Haven.

Her father, Paul Hanson, spoke to ABC News by phone from his home in Washington state and said he dropped his daughter off in January, and that she was not allowed inside the lion and tiger cages and could only feed the animals from outside the cage.  He says he has no idea why Dianna was inside the cage on Wednesday.

Paul Hanson said Dianna cared for the animals each morning and gave tours to school children in the afternoons.  He said she loved to be around big cats -- it was her passion.

The sanctuary was closed to the public at the time of the attack.  California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife says Cat Haven is licensed and has a good safety record.

Dave Anderson, the founder of Cat Haven, said his thoughts and prayers go out to the victim’s friends and family.

Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and host of Jack Hanna's Into the Wild, says there’s an old saying: “You can usually train a wild animal.  You can never tame a wild animal.”

Hanna says people who work with animals must remember they're dealing with wild creatures.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio