24-year-old intern Dianna Hanson died living her dream at a California wildlife sanctuary. Authorities say she was cleaning a large pen and was attacked and killed by a 550 pound lion that may have managed to escape his own feeding cage. Investigators now believe a gate or door was left partially open.
"Their exhibits are their territory and if you encroach upon it, they're going to take advantage of it and lions are big. They're saying this cat was 550 pounds. He didn't have to be aggressive to kill her, he could've just been playing, who knows," Amos Morris said.
In October 1999, a lion attacked zookeeper, Junius Sneed IV at Mesker Park Zoo. The lion's paw reached through a cage and grabbed his arm. Sneed was seriously injured, but survived the attack. Sneed was unable to talk on camera, but says, "These accidents are terrible. I feel for the girl that was killed, but you're dealing with a wild animal. They're not evil animals. They're wild animals."
Mesker Park Zoo Director, Amos Morris came to the zoo four and a half years ago, and says they haven't had any animal attacks since he started. Right now, Mesker Park Zoo has one female lion. Morris has worked with big cats at zoo's across the country and says any big cat potentially can be lethal.
"I've raised tiger cubs and when they reach 20-30 pounds, they're a hand full and those claws come out and they do a lot of damage if they get a hold of you," Morris said.
Morris says there's no need to share the same space with a big cat at the zoo. He says they can provide all of its care without being in its space, and medical care is done under chemical anesthesia. Morris says they try to have two locking mechanisms between a person and an animal.
"Just because an exotic animal is raised by people, doesn't mean that it doesn't have its wild instincts and the wild triggers that they look for when they are going to pounce or play," Morris said.
Zoo officials say before staff members enter and exit a carnivore area, they radio call so everyone knows where they are.