Burlington, N.C. – An intern helped with routine cleaning at a wildlife center in North Carolina when a lion. Visitors were thrown out of the house as staff and authorities tried in vain to calm the animal and reach the young woman's body. In the end, MPs shot the lion.
Alexandra Black from New Palestine, Indiana, has been at the Conservators Center for about two weeks. The recent 22-year-old college graduate is remembered for her passionate career working with animals.
"The passion of this person was the zoological industry.This was not the first internship of this person.This person wanted to spend a lifetime around these animals, and I believe that the family supported that very much," said the private director led center, Mindy Stinner, to reporters on Sunday.
Stinner said Black accompanied professional staff at the facility near Burlington when they regularly cleaned an animal enclosure on Sunday when the male lion was released from a separate, enclosed room and attacked, according to the Center , Caswell County sheriff's office said MPs had arrived at the scene and shot the lion after several attempts to calm him down or keep him at bay with fire hoses.
"The stress was high," Sheriff Tony Durden told WRAL-TV. "I know they're not used to having a 600-pound pet, and then leaving a young woman on the floor, so, you know, stress."
Stinner said visitors in the center about 60 miles northwest of Raleigh were being forced out of the park with the help of security protocols. The staff said the lion had never made it over the park fence. It was not immediately clear how the lion escaped from the enclosed area during the cleanup, and the park was closed indefinitely as part of an investigation.
Black graduated from Indiana University in May with a degree in animal behavior, according to her LinkedIn page. She also recently worked at Wolf Park, Battleground, Indiana, her family said.
"The passion of this person was the zoological industry." This was not the first internship of this person, "said Mindy Stinner, the center's executive director a Sunday press conference. "This person wanted to spend a lifetime with these animals, and I think the family supported that very much."
Black's family said that she had worked at the Conservatory for 10 days and that this was the fourth internship in her young career.
"She was a beautiful young woman who had just started her career, there was a terrible accident and we are mourning, but she died after her passion," her family said in a statement to CBS News.
In a statement on Monday, the center stated details of the lion.
"Our lion, Matthai, was inevitably euthanized by first responders," the statement said. "Matthai was a 14-year-old man born at the Conservators Center shortly after his mother was placed with us in 2004 after a USDA-backed seizure."
Matthai described the location as "naturally somewhat nervous". but "an avid recipient of attention from the people he knows best." A video on the YouTube page of the center shows how Matthai roars.
The privately owned, nonprofit Nature Center has encountered no issues during US Department of Agriculture inspections in April 2018 or January 2017, according to government reports. The state inspector counted 16 lions, three tigers and two leopards during the site visit of 2018 to a total of 85 animals.
The center was founded in 1999 as a "non-profit educational company" specializing in providing a dedicated home for selected predator species on its website. The site says it hosts 21 species. It says there have been public tours since 2007 and has more than 16,000 visitors annually.
Stinner says she currently sees the facility as a "community zoo".