Cat Haven: Lion mauls person to death at California animal sanctuary after entering its cage

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 18:54 EST, 6 March 2013 | UPDATED: 19:39 EST, 6 March 2013

A 26-year-old intern has been fatally mauled by an African lion after entering its cage at a private animal sanctuary in California today.

The unidentified woman who was volunteering at the sanctuary was attacked after getting into the male lion's cage at Cat Haven sanctuary in Dunlap said California Fire spokesman Ryan Michaels.

The four-year-old lion named Cous Cous was immediately shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy responding to the scene.

Mauling: A 26-year-old female intern was fatally mauled by this African lion at California's Cat Haven sanctuary on Wednesday after entering its cage

Mauling: A 26-year-old female intern was fatally mauled by this African lion at California's Cat Haven sanctuary on Wednesday after entering its cage

Cat Haven founder and executive director Dale Anderson was crying as he read a one-sentence statement about the fatal mauling at the exotic animal zoo he has operated since 1993.

The intern was attacked and killed when she entered the lion's enclosure, he said.

He refused to take questions from reporters, but extended thoughts and prayers to the victim's friends and relatives.

Investigators were trying to determine why the intern was inside the enclosure and what might have provoked the attack, Fresno County sheriff's Sgt. Greg Collins said.

Fresno County Emergency Medical Services say they received a call to the sanctuary around 12.32pm today but by 12.52 the call was cancelled because the victim had already died, the Fresno Bee reports.

Killed: The four-year-old lion named Cous Cous, seen here with a female named Pely, was shot dead by emergency personnel responding to the scene

Killed: The four-year-old lion named Cous Cous, seen here with a female named Pely, was shot dead by emergency personnel responding to the scene

The lion had been hand raised at the sanctuary since it was eight-months old, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival, the nonprofit that operates Cat Haven.

Cat Haven is a private 100-acre non-profit animal sanctuary just west of Kings Canyon National Park.

The site is about 45 miles east of Fresno in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Since the property opened in 1993, it has housed numerous big cats, including tigers, leopards and other exotic species.

'This facility has a very good history,' Lt. Tony Spada of state Fish & Wildlife told the Fresno Bee. 'In this case, someone just got too close.'

Sanctuary: The Cat Haven sanctuary, a non-profit opened in 1993, is on 100-acres of private land, pictured, just west of Kings Canyon National Park

Sanctuary: The Cat Haven sanctuary, a non-profit opened in 1993, is on 100-acres of private land, pictured, just west of Kings Canyon National Park

The sanctuary boasts more intimate relationships with their cats, with videos showing their handlers interacting one-on-one with the animals inside their cages.

'We started the Cat Haven with the idea that giving people a better experience with cats, and hopefully they become interested when they see them and hear them and hopefully they'll want to take an active role in conservation for cats in the wild,' said Cat Haven's founder Dale Anderson speaking to Fox News in February.

Another big cat sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida, told the AP last year that at least 21 people, including five children, have been killed and 246 mauled by exotic cats since 1990.

Over that period, 254 cats escaped and 143 were killed.

By Staff 03/06/2013 12:15:00