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Fatal lion attack 'so tragic all the way around'

March 6, 2013 |  7:27 pm

Cous Cous lion attack

A 4-year-old lion killed a woman intern at a Fresno County animal park Wednesday, leaving officials at the zoo stunned.

The lion, named Cous Cous, attacked the woman when she entered the lion enclosure about 12:30 p.m., Dale Anderson, Cat Haven's founder, told reporters gathered outside the park Wednesday afternoon. A visibly shaken Anderson declined to answer questions about the incident.

The woman's name has not been released, but she is believed to be in her early 20s.

Cous Cous had been hand-raised at the park since he was 8 weeks old, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival.

"It's so tragic all the way around," she said.

Anderson added: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and family at this time."

Janice Mackey, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman, said the department had taken custody of the animal's body and will assist the Fresno County Sheriff's Department with its investigation into the afternoon attack at Project Survival's Cat Haven, located near Dunlap in eastern Fresno County.

The park was licensed through the state and everything was in order, Mackey said, adding that the state agency was unaware of any previous problems.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Ryan Michaels told The Times that emergency crews were called to the scene after a reported animal bite, but the victim was declared dead by the time they arrived. Michaels confirmed that the person was inside the enclosure when the attack occurred.

Sheriff's deputies were first on the scene and "dispatched a lion at that time," Mackey said.

According to Cat Haven’s answering machine, the park is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays for its “winter hours.”

"Project Survival's Cat Haven promotes the conservation and preservation of wild cats in their native habitat by educating visitors and publicizing the work done by Project Survival Cat Conservation Group," its website states.

The website shows photos of numerous wild cats, including bobcats, cheetahs, leopards and lions.

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— Kate Mather in Los Angeles and Diana Marcum in Dunlap, Calif.

Photo: Cous Cous the lion, which was shot and killed after fatally attacking a woman at Project Survival's Cat Haven. Credit: Project Survival
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