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Lion attack: Visitors return to cat sanctuary where intern died

March 11, 2013 |  7:38 am

Visitors are returning to a wild cat sanctuary in Fresno County, where an intern was killed when a lion attacked her in the park.

About two dozen people joined stricken staff members of Project Survival’s Cat Haven in a moment of silence Sunday for Diana Hanson, whose life passion was working with big cats.

Hanson, 26, was killed at the Dunlap park Wednesday, when a 4-year-old male lion named Cous Cous attacked her. Another volunteer tried to lure the lion away from Hanson, but by the time authorities reached Hanson, she was dead. The cat was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies.

During Sunday’s gathering, the haven's founder Dale Anderson reiterated remarks he made earlier at a news conference that the staff who raised the lion Cous Cous since he was a cub had found no fault with deputies' shooting the animal to get to Hanson.

"People want to put Cous Cous in the same category as her and it’s not the same," he said. "But I'm going to miss my boy."

Members of Hanson’s family have said they believe her death was an accident. A preliminary autopsy suggested that Hanson died quickly from a fractured neck and “some suffocation,” said Fresno County Coroner David Hadden.

The neck injury appeared to have come from a swipe of the lion’s paw. The body had “numerous claw marks and bite damage” elsewhere, probably inflicted after the initial swipe, Hadden said.

Project Survival's Cat Haven houses lions, tigers, cheetahs and jaguars in enclosures on a boulder-strewn hillside about half a mile off the main road to Kings Canyon National Park. The nonprofit sanctuary, which raises money for conservation causes, gets about 10,000 visitors a year.

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-- Diana Marcum in Dunlap

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