BURLINGTON, N.C. — A lion killed a young worker at a wildlife conservatory Sunday after it got loose from a locked space, the center said.
Alexandra Black, 22, of New Palestine, Indiana, was attacked by the lion in an enclosure that was being cleaned at the Conservators Center, according to a statement from the Caswell County Sheriff's Office.
Black, an intern who recently graduatred from Indiana State University, had been working at the center for only 10 days, her family said in a statement.
"Our beautiful, intelligent, passionate Alex had worked, unpaid, at several animal-related ventures, most recently at Wolf Park in Battleground, Ind. This was her fourth internship, because she really wanted to make a career of working with animals. She was looking forward to this first out-of-state internship at the Convervators Center in North Carolina that started 10 days ago.
"She was a beautiful young woman who had just started her career, there was a terrible accident, and we are mourning. But, she died following her passion."
The lion was shot and killed after attempts to tranquilize the animal failed, deputies said.
A "husbandry team" led by a professionally trained animal keeper was carrying out the routine cleaning when the lion somehow got loose, the center said in a statement.
It wasn't clear how the lion left the area that was supposed to be locked, said the center, which will be closed until further notice.
"The Conservators Center is devastated by the loss of a human life today," the statement said.
The center said the lion was fatally shot to allow county personnel to retrieve Black.
The facility, founded in 1999, began giving public tours in 2007 and gets more than 16,000 visitors annually, according to its website. It has more than a dozen employees and currently houses more than 80 animals and more than 21 species.
The center says it took in 14 lions and tigers in 2004 to assist the U.S. Department of Agriculture with caring for animals that were living in "unacceptable conditions."