| Lion kills intern at California animal sanctuary|
|A female intern was killed on Wednesday by a lion at a private wild animal park in central California.|
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 26-year-old intern was attacked and killed when she entered the lion's enclosure, Anderson said, but he refused to answer questions or provide more details.
Sheriff's deputies responding to an emergency call from Cat Haven, in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Fresno, found the woman severely injured and still lying inside the enclosure with the lion nearby, Fresno County sheriff's Lieutenant Bob Miller said.
Another park worker had unsuccessfully tried luring the lion away and into a separate pen. Deputies shot and killed the animal so they could reach the wounded woman, who died at the scene, Miller said.
Investigators were trying to determine why the intern was inside the enclosure and what might have provoked the attack, sheriff's Sergeant Greg Collins said. The facility is normally closed on Wednesdays and only one other worker was there when the mauling happened, Collins said.
The male African lion, a four-year-old male named Couscous, had been raised from a cub at Cat Haven, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival, the nonprofit organisation that operates the animal park. Osegueda did not know how the park acquired the cub.
Cat Haven is a 100-acre (40ha) facility just west of Kings Canyon national park. Since the property opened in 1993 it has housed numerous big cats, including tigers, leopards and other exotic species. It is permitted to house exotic animals by the California department of fish and wildlife, is regulated as a zoo by the US department of agriculture. It was most recently inspected on 4 February by the department of agriculture but appeared to be overdue for an inspection by the fish and wildlife department, having not had its annual inspection since January 2011.
Results of the last 13 inspections by the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service show no violations dating back to March 2010. The most recent inspection was Feb. 4, USDA records show.
Despite state regulations that require annual inspections, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife most recently inspected the facility in January 2011 when it received a good report.
Department spokeswoman Janice Mackey said she was unaware if any state regulations would prohibit an employee from entering an exotic animal's enclosure.
Nicole Paquette, vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, voiced concerns. "She should have never been in the enclosure with him," Paquette said of the victim. "These are big cats that are extremely dangerous, and they placed a volunteer in the actual cage with a wild animal. That should have never happened."
Officials at another sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida, told the Associated Press in 2012 that at least 21 people, including five children, had been killed and 246 mauled by exotic cats in the US since 1990. Over that period 254 cats escaped and 143 were killed.
Tatiana, a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo, was killed by police after jumping out of its enclosure and fatally mauling a 17-year-old boy and injuring two other people in 2007.
Cat Haven has housed Bengal tigers, Siberian lynx, caracals, jaguars and leopards of various types as well as bobcats native to the area. Anderson described the private zoo several years ago as one of a handful of facilities across the US that has all of the big cat species in one place.