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Lion kills zoo worker and is shot dead as tranquilliser fails in 'terrible accident' at wildlife centre

Intern's family say she 'died following her passion'

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Monday 31 December 2018 11:45 GMT
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Lion kills worker at US wildlife conservatory

A young intern has been killed by a lion after it escaped from what was meant to be a locked enclosure.

Alexandra Black, 22, was attacked by the big cat while its cage was being cleaned at the Conservators Center in North Carolina on Sunday.

The lion was shot and killed after several attempts to sedate it with a tranquilliser failed, according to police.

A “husbandry team” led by a professionally trained animal keeper was carrying out the routine cleaning when the lion somehow escaped, the centre said in a statement.

It also noted that it was still not clear how the lion got out of the area that was supposed to be locked.

Ms Black, of New Palestine, Indiana, had only been working at the wildlife park for about two weeks.

“This is the worst day of my life. We’ve lost a person. We’ve lost an animal. We have lost the faith in ourselves a little today,” said Mindy Stinner, executive director of the Conservators Centre, according to WTVD-TV .

Miss Black had graduated from Indiana University in May with a degree in animal behaviour, according to her LinkedIn page.

“She was a beautiful young woman who had just started her career, there was a terrible accident, and we are mourning,” her family said in a statement, according to news outlets.

“But, she died following her passion.”

The centre said the lion was fatally shot to allow county personnel to retrieve Ms Black.

The facility was founded in 1999 and is in Burlington, about 50 miles northwest of Raleigh.

On its website, the centre said it began giving public tours in 2007 and gets more than 16,000 visitors annually.

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It has more than a dozen employees and currently houses more than 80 animals, including tigers, lions and coyotes.

It took in 14 lions and tigers in 2004 to assist the US Department of Agriculture with caring for animals that were living in “unacceptable conditions.”

While the centre did not disclose the name of the lion involved in the incident, CBS reported it was a male named Matthai.

In its statement the centre said it was “devastated by the loss of a human life”, and confirmed it will be closed until further notice.

Additional reporting by AP.

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