Lion kills worker after escaping locked area at conservatory

BURLINGTON, NC (AP) — A lion killed a young worker at a wildlife conservatory last Sunday after it got loose from a locked space, the centre said.

Alexandra Black, 22, of New Palestine, Indiana, was killed last Sunday after being attacked by the lion in an enclosure that was being cleaned at the Conservators Center, news outlets reported, citing a statement from the Caswell County Sheriff’s Office.

The lion was shot and killed after attempts to tranquilise 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 centre said in a statement.

It was not clear how the lion escaped the area that was supposed to be locked, said the centre, which is closed until further notice.

“This is the worst day of my life. We’ve lost a person. We’ve lost an animal. We have lost the faith in ourselves a little today,” said Executive Director of the Conservators Center Mindy Stinner according to WTVD-TV.

Black had graduated from Indiana University in May with a degree in animal behaviour, according to her LinkedIn page.

She had been working at the conservatory for about two weeks, her family said.

“She was a beautiful young woman who had just started her career, there was a terrible accident, and we are mourning,” Black’s family said in a statement, according to news outlets. “But, she died following her passion.”

The centre said the lion was fatally shot to allow county personnel to retrieve Black.

The facility was founded in 1999 and is in Burlington, about 80 kilometres northwest of Raleigh.