Woman Killed by Lion in Its Cage at California Sanctuary

Thursday, 07 Mar 2013 01:02 PM

By Michael Mullins

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A 26-year-old intern at a California sanctuary for wild cats was killed Wednesday by a 350-pound African lion while working in its cage.

Dianna Hanson, of Seattle, was attacked by the 5-year-old male lion and killed on the spot. The lion was then shot and killed by sheriff deputies while paramedics worked inside the cage in an unsuccessful attempt to save Hanson.

Hanson's death occurred shortly after noon at Project Survival's Cat Haven in Dunlap, roughly 45 miles east of Fresno, which has not released a statement on the attack.

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According to Hanson's grieving father Paul, the lion named "Cous Cous" was one of her favorite big cats at the sanctuary, CNN reported.

Paul Hanson released a statement Wednesday night, recalling his visit to the sanctuary with his daughter earlier this year.

"Once there, she gave me the tour and showed me all the big cats there with which she would be working. Of course, Dianna being Dianna, her favorites were the tiger and the lion . . . who killed her today," he said.

Hanson started a six-month internship at the sanctuary in the beginning of the year, her father said.

Cous Cous appeared on Ellen DeGeneres' television show as a 3-month-old cub five years ago and the comedian bottle-fed her.

Jenny Michaels, head of The Jungle Jenny Foundation, told CNN's Piers Morgan on Wednesday night that she had been in the same lion's cage previously and "didn't see any type of aggressive behavior."

"It was really well run, very professional. I don't know the circumstances (of the attack) but I can tell you that in my interaction over at Project Survival they have been professional, and they have run their protocol strictly," Michaels said.

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The sanctuary, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit, is situated on a 100-acre plot in the Sierra Nevada foothills and features an array of wild cats, many of which are endangered, including the snow leopard and the clouded leopard, in addition to the well-known breeds of lions, tigers, and cheetahs.

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