A 24-year-old intern was mauled to death by a lion Wednesday in the Project Survival’s Cat Haven sanctuary in Fresno, California. Authorities identified the victim as Dianna Hanson, a young woman who had moved from her home in Washington to California to do volunteer work with rare cats. An autopsy was scheduled for Thursday.
Hanson’s Facebook page is dotted with pictures of her posing with various big cats, including cheetahs, lions and tigers. Little information has been released about the attack but, according to the Fresno Bee, Hanson’s father Paul wrote a Facebook message about his daughter after he heard the news she’d been killed.
“Dianna really loved her six-month internship at Cat Haven. She and I drove down there from Seattle on Jan 1 and 2. She was so excited at working in Cat Haven and living in California. Once there, she gave me the tour and showed me all the big cats there with which she would be working,” he wrote. “Of course, Dianna being Dianna, her favorites were the tiger and the lion, Cous Cous, who killed her today. You can see on her Facebook page all the big cats she loved so much down there.”
Hanson was administering food to the lion when she was attacked. Park regulations never allow employees to be in an enclosure alone with a cat, so the exact circumstances around the attack remain murky.
A more experienced volunteer tried to coax the lion away from the injured intern, but by the time police arrived, Cous Cous was still guarding her, at which time the animal was shot and killed. Hanson was pronounced dead at the scene.
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Dale Anderson, a former pilot who founded the park a decade ago, held back tears as he read a statement to reporters waiting outside.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and family at this time,” he said. “We’ll keep you posted as things progress around here.”