A LION killed a 22-year-old intern after escaping from its enclosure at a US wildlife centre before being shot dead, The Sun reports.
The lion managed to leave a locked area when an animal keeper was cleaning its pen at the Conservators Center in Burlington, North Carolina.
Alexandra Black was killed before police shot the animal dead after trying and failing to tranquillise it, in order to retrieve her body.
Miss Black, a recent graduate of Indiana State University, had only been working at the wildlife centre for 10 days. Her heartbroken family said she “died following her passion”.
They said in a statement: “Our beautiful, intelligent, passionate Alex had worked, unpaid, at several animal-related ventures.
“This was her fourth internship, because she really wanted to make a career of working with animals. “She was a beautiful young woman who had just started her career. There was a terrible accident, and we are mourning.”
On her LinkedIn profile she said she wanted to become a zookeeper. An investigation is ongoing as to how the lion escaped.
The centre, a non-profit organisation which was founded in 1999, houses more than 80 animals and more than 21 species, including lions and tigers, many of which were taken from “unacceptable living conditions.”
Around 16,000 people visit the center every year.
There are currently 15 lions at the center, many of whom arrived as part of a United States Department of Agriculture placement after the Ohio State Fish and Wildlife Service seized animals from poor living conditions in 2004.
They won’t disclose the name of the lion that was shot dead but CBS reported that it was a male named Matthai.
Matthai is described by the center as “more shy than his siblings Calvin, Katrina and Savik when it comes to visitors, but he is an enthusiastic recipient of attention from the people he knows best.”
According to a description on the center’s website he “is a little nervous by nature, so he relies on cues from his bolder neighbors like Willow and Calvin when deciding how to react to new experiences like a person playing acoustic guitar nearby or if there is a loud noise nearby”.
The centre said it was “devastated by the loss of a human life” and will be closed until further notice.
In a statement, bosses added: “While a husbandry team led by a professionally trained animal keeper was carrying out a routine enclosure cleaning, one of the lions somehow left a locked space and entered the space the human were in and quickly killed one person. It is unclear at this time how the lion left the locked enclosure.”
In May British wildlife park owner Mike Hodge was badly injured after being mauled by one of his lions at the Marakele Animal Sanctuary in Thabazimbi, South Africa.
The lion, named Shamba, was shot dead by a ranger to save the Brit.