DUNLAP, Calif. (KTLA) — Investigators are trying to find out what provoked a lion to maul a female volunteer to death at wild cat sanctuary in Fresno County.
The attack occurred Wednesday afternoon at Project Survival’s Cat Haven in Dunlap.
“Another employee had made several attempts to distract the lion away from the victim and into another enclosure prior to the deputy’s arrival, but all attempts failed,” the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
A sheriff’s deputy shot and killed the lion and then gave medical assistance to the worker, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
24-year-old Seattle native Dianna Hanson was identified as the victim of the attack by her father, Paul Hanson.
“I don’t know why in the world she’d ever be inside the lion’s cage,” he told KTLA.
“I can’t see any reason why she’d do that, unless she just wanted to have contact with the lions like she did up in Bellingham.”
“Only the owner was allowed to be in the cage,” he explained. “Only the lion and tiger’s cage, she said the workers were forbidden from ever going into.”
In a statement, Hanson asked people to “honor Dianna’s memory by helping her favorite cause: preserving the remaining big cats in the world.”
“She would ask us to do that for her,” he said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family at this critical time,” said Dale Anderson, founder of Project Survival Cat Haven.
The lion, a 350-pound, 4-year-old named Cous Cous, had been raised at Cat Haven since it was 8 weeks old, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival, the nonprofit that operates Cat Haven.
The animal park was founded in 1993 and sits on 100 acres about 15 miles west of King’s Canyon National Park and 40 miles east of Fresno.
It describes itself as an “innovative park dedicated to the preservation of wild cats.”
According to Cat Haven’s answering machine, the park is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays for its “winter hours.” Calls and messages were not immediately returned.
Its website says that it “promotes the conservation and preservation of wild cats in their native habitat by educating visitors and publicizing the work done by Project Survival Cat Conservation Group.”
The website shows photos of numerous wild cats, including bobcats, cheetahs, leopards and lions.