A lion mauled a 22-year-old girl to death Sunday after escaping its enclosure at a North Carolina zoo during a routine cleaning Sunday, forcing zookeepers to gun it down.
Alexandra Black had been working at the Conservators Center in Caswell County just ten days before the incident, the BBC reported Monday. Black had had several zoo and conservation internships and was looking forward to spending the rest of her career with animals, according to her family.
“This was her fourth internship” Black’s family said in a statement. “She was a beautiful young woman who had just started her career, there was a terrible accident, and we are mourning.”
The Conservators Center released a statement on Facebook saying its staff were devastated by the loss of both Black and the lion and were investigating exactly what happened. (RELATED: Border Patrol Find Live Tiger Inside Abandoned Duffel Bag)
“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 humans were in and quickly killed one person. It is unclear at this time how the lion left the locked enclosure. The lion was shot and killed to allow Caswell County personnel to retrieve the worker. This is an ongoing investigation and we have no further details at this time,” the statement read.
The lion, reportedly a male named Matthai, was shot and killed after attempts to tranquilize it failed, the BBC reported.
“This is the worst day of my life,” the park’s executive director, Mindy Stinner, told the BBC. “We’ve lost a person. We’ve lost an animal. We have lost the faith in ourselves a little today.”
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