(ABC News)–The father of the intern, who was killed by a lion at a big cat sanctuary
in Dunlap, Calif., Wednesday, said his daughter never feared working
with big cats, but he always feared something might happen to her.
The victim was identified as 24-year-old Dianna Hanson, who was two months into her internship program at the Cat Haven in Dunlap, a small town in Fresno County near King's Canyon National Park.
“Anybody who works with cats knows that they are wild animals and they
can turn even on people closest to them. So I always had this horrible,
nagging premonition that I would get a call like this,” Hanson's father,
Paul, told ABC News overnight by phone from his home in Washington
Hanson said his daughter loved to be around big cats and working with them was her true passion in life.
Dianna Hanson was inside the cat enclosure when a 4-year-old male
African lion named Cous Cous attacked her around 12:30 p.m., officials
said. It was not immediately clear what Hanson was doing inside the
closure, or what prompted the attack.
Another employee had tried unsuccessfully to lure Cous Cous away from
Hanson and into another enclosure.
Less than 30 minutes after Hanson entered the cage, Cous Cous was shot
by a Fresno County sheriff's deputy who responded to a call, authorities
“The lion was shot and killed per our safety protocols,” Dale Anderson,
founder and executive director of Project Survival Cat Haven, which
manages Cat Haven, said Wednesday.
The park was closed at the time of the attack.
Hanson's grief-stricken father is now left with the question of why his
daughter was in the enclosure with the lion.
“How she ever got inside the cage and why she would be inside the cage,
because I thought she made it real clear that they don't let anybody in
the cage except the owner,” Paul Hanson said.
In a statement on Facebook, Hanson reflected on his daughter's time working at the sanctuary.
“Once there, she gave me the tour and showed me all the big cats there
with which she would be working. Of course, Dianna being Dianna, her
favorites were the tiger and the lion … who killed her today,” he
Dianna Hanson trained with three tigers and a lion while in college at
Western Washington State University. She also traveled to Africa to work
with large cats, Paul Hanson said. The internship at the sanctuary was a
requirement she needed from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to
achieve her goal of working at a zoo.
“Di, we will always love you. And we will miss you so much. But I know
that you will be happy. For now, you truly are in the eternal 'Cat
Haven,'” Paul Hanson said in the statement.
The sanctuary will remain closed to the public today, and state wildlife
officials will perform a necropsy on Cous Cous, trying to determine
what may have caused the fatal attack.
Cous Cous had been raised at the preserve since he was 8 weeks old, and
even made an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” when he was a cub.
Cat Haven was founded in 1993 and is run by Project Survival, a privately funded education and conservation organization.
The 100-acre facility is home to a variety of wild cats — including
tigers, leopards and other threatened and endangered species that are
kept for limited breeding and use in educational programs, according to
Cat Haven's website.
Officials said the park has had a good history, and had an active permit to operate.
Cat Haven also runs an outreach program, and its “cat ambassadors” may
sometimes be taken off-site to make appearances as part of that program,
according to the website.
The preserve is run by a core staff supported by volunteers.
Copyright 2013 by ABC News