BERLINGTON, North Carolina. On Sunday, a lion killed a young worker at the Conservatory of Wildlife after he left the locked space, the center said.
Alexandra Black, 22, from New Palestine, Indiana, was killed on Sunday after a lion attacked a corps that had been cleared at the Conservative Center, news agencies reported citing a statement from the Caswell County Sheriff.
Deputies said that the lion was shot dead after attempts to calm the animal failed.
"The team of animal husbandry," led by a professionally trained breeder, did the usual cleaning when the lion somehow got free, the center said in a statement.
It was not clear how the lion escaped the area that was supposed to be locked, said the center, which is closed until further notice.
“This is the worst day of my life. We lost a man. We lost an animal. Today we have lost a little faith in ourselves, ”said Mindy Steenner, executive director of the Conservative Center, reports WTVD-TV.
According to her LinkedIn page, Black graduated from Indiana University in May with a degree in animal behavior. According to her family, she worked at the conservatory for about two weeks.
“She was a beautiful young woman who had just begun her career, there was a terrible accident, and we are grieving,” the Black family said, according to news agencies. "But she died because of her passion."
The center says that the lion was mortally wounded in order to allow the district staff to pick up the black ones.
The facility was founded in 1999 and is located in Burlington, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Raleigh.
On its website, the Center reported that it began conducting public tours in 2007 and annually visits more than 16,000 people. It employs more than a dozen employees, and currently it contains more than 80 animals and more than 21 species.
The center reports that in 2004, 14 lions and tigers needed help from the US Department of Agriculture in caring for animals that lived in "unacceptable conditions."