A lion attacked and killed a caretaker at Project Survival's Cat Haven at Dunlap in Fresno County. The worker was inside the lion’s cage when the fatal lion attack occurred and even though Fresno County Emergency Medical Services responded quickly to the emergency call at 12:32 p.m. on Wednesday, the call was cancelled before paramedics had arrived at the sanctuary because the caretaker had died, according to a Fox5 San Diego News report on March 6, 2013.
“The Fresno County Sheriff’s Department and Cal Fire confirmed to The Times they had responded to an animal attack at Project Survival’s Cat Haven in Dunlap, where Fresno television stations are reporting a worker was killed while inside the lion’s cage. The male lion named Cous Cous was euthanized after the attack, according to reporters on the scene.”
Cous Cous, the four-year-old male African lion who attacked and killed his caretaker, was hand-raised at the Cat Haven since he was an eight-week-old cub according to Tanya Osegueda, a spokesperson for Cat Haven. Cous Cous was “dispatched” by a Fresno County sheriff's deputy who came to the scene.
The name and hometown of the caretaker who was killed on Wednesday has not yet been officially released. However, on Cat Haven's Facebook page, one post seems to indicate that the caretaker might have been a female intern.
" My heart aches for the Inter, her family & the lion & all those that loved them both ... how horrific!"
Lt. Tony Spada of Fish & Wildlife described Wednesday’s fatal lion attack as “very rare” because the wild cat sanctuary is permitted by the Fish & Wildlife agency for exotic animals.
According to Lt. Tony Spada, the wildlife sanctuary “has a very good history” and that in the fatal lion attack “someone just got too close.” An autopsy of the victim and the African lion will be performed as part of an investigation into what might have caused the unusual attack.
The Project Survival's Cat Haven at Dunlap in Fresno County is home to about two dozen rare felines from four different continents and includes tigers, leopards, lions, jaguars and cheetahs.
According to Cat Haven’s website, the non-profit organization was “Founded in 1993 with the purchase of 100 scenic acres just west of King's Canyon National Park the Cat Haven offers guided tours of some of the rarest cats in the world. … Project Survival's Cat Haven is an innovative park dedicated to the preservation of wild cats. It specializes in education and is engaged in both captive and range country conservation. It is this link to the conservation of cats in their native habitat which makes the work of the Cat Haven especially meaningful. The facility is not a rescue organization. The wild cats which come here are chosen carefully for their contributions.”
Many people are expressing their condolences on Cat Haven’s Facebook page and for many, today's fatal lion attack is not just one tragedy but two tragedies.
According to updated information on Wednesday night, the intern that was killed today was 24-year-old Dianna Hanson from western Washington. Dianna’s father, Paul Hanson released a statement today saying that his daughter loved working with all the animals at the park, but was especially close to Cous Cous. Dianna is a graduate of Mountlake Terrace High school and Western Washington University who was in the middle of a 6-month internship at Cat Haven.
"Of course, Dianna being Dianna, her favorites were the tiger and the lion, Cous Cous, who killed her today."
Dianna was found severely injured and still inside the lion enclosure with Cous Cous nearby when sheriff’s deputies arrived at Cat Haven today. Since the sanctuary is closed on Wednesdays, there was only one other park worker who tried luring the lion into a separate pen. Deputies shot and killed Cous Cous so they could reach Dianna, but she died at the scene.