A heartbreaking tragedy struck the Tar Heel state. A 22-year-old woman working at a zoological park in North Carolina was killed after a lion escaped its pen and attacked her!
A “husbandry team, led by a professionally trained animal keeper, was carrying out a routine enclosure cleaning” at the Conservators Center in Burlington, North Carolina, on Dec. 30, when the worst happened. “One of the lions somehow left a locked space and entered the space the humans were in and quickly killed one person,” the Conservators said on its Facebook page, per CNN. “The Conservators Center is devastated by the loss of a human life today.” While the zoological park didn’t name the worker killed in the attack, the Caswell County Sheriff’s Office identified her as Alexandra Black, 22, a recent graduate of Indiana State University.
Alexandria had been an intern at the Conservators Centers for about two weeks before the deadly lion attack. The New Palestine, Indiana native was passionate about the zoological industry, and she was pursuing her dream of working with animals. “[T]his was not this person’s first internship,” Mindy Stinner, the center’s executive director, told CNN affiliate WNCN. “And this person wanted to spend a lifetime around these animals.”
“Alex loved animals. Our beautiful, intelligent, passionate Alex had worked, unpaid, at several animal-related ventures, most recently at Wolf Park in Battleground, Indiana. This was her fourth internship, because she really wanted to make a career of working with animals,” her family said in a statement.
The male lion involved in the incident was euthanized following the attack and at this time, it’s unclear how it managed to escape its enclosure. Large cats are locked in a separate area from humans during the routine cleanings, according to the center’s executive director. “At no time did the lion ever enter a space that was not enclosed by the park’s perimeter fence….This is not a situation we’ve ever had before. Safety is a very, very important feature of running any zoological park,” Stinner said during a news conference held after the incident.
The center is closed until further notice, as she says they “need to assess our situation, and we need to make sure that everyone here is safe and feels safe, because this is a very scary thing.”
The Conservators Center houses more than 80 animals, including tigers, small wild cats and other small carnivores. It offers guided walking tours near the animal enclosures, and is regulated by the US Department of Agriculture. Mind Stinner co-cofounded the center in 1999 in Mebane, North Carolina, as an “educational nonprofit to provide a home for select carnivore species,” per its website. It relocated to a 45-acre swath in 2004.