California Animal Park Reopens After Fatal Lion Attack

Melissa John, Staff Writer

Cat Haven, an animal park located in Dunlap, California, reopened to the public on Sunday, March 10, 2013, after an African lion fatally attacked a 24-year-old intern.

The feline sanctuary, which is run by the nonprofit Project Survival, offered a moment of silence at noon in memory of the loss of their new volunteer Dianna Hanson.

Investigators believe that on Wednesday, March 6, 2013, a 550 pound male lion, known as Cous Cous, managed his way through a ‘partially closed feeding cage’ and attacked Hanson while she was cleaning an enclosure area nearby.

Dale Anderson, founder of Cat Haven, stated that, “The park will now be returning to normal operations so the staff can focus on taking care of its remaining 29 wild cats, but we will continue to mourn the loss of two family members.”

Anderson also stated during Sunday’s news conference, “Dianna would want the work that we are doing to continue and we are re-opening to the public with consent from Dianna’s parents. Her passion for working with these animals was contagious.”

A deputy was forced to fatally shoot the 5-year-old lion after the incident when it was unable to be taken away from Hanson’s body.

However details have not yet been provided, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims did say that the gate was not completely closed at the time of the incident. She stated, “We believe this was an accident, an error.”

Investigators were not the only one’s who believed that Hanson’s mauling was an accident. Hanson’s relatives commented that they believe that the safety protocols were followed, and that this misfortune was merely a fault in the process.

Wendy Debbas, president of Project Survival, read a letter during the memorial service on Sunday from Donna Anderson, the victim’s mother.

“I am living every mother’s worst nightmare in losing a cherished child,” Anderson said in the letter. “It is my desire that they continue their mission in support of saving my daughter’s beloved creatures.”

In addition to the memorial on Sunday, Hanson’s family announced that a fund has been created in Donna’s memory. The family is urging people to donate to the wildlife organizations that Donna loved, including Cat Haven.

“Her legacy will live on through the support of conservancies such as Project Survival’s Cat Haven,” Anderson said during his statement at the memorial.