Lion kills 22-year-old intern after escaping enclosure at North Carolina animal center

By Stefan Becket

/ CBS News

A lion escaped its enclosure and killed a recent college graduate at a North Carolina conservatory during a routine cleaning, the center said Sunday. The lion was later shot and killed.

The fatal attack occurred at the Conservators Center in Burlington, North Carolina, about 50 miles northwest of Raleigh. The Caswell County Sheriff's Office identified the victim as 22-year-old Alexandra Black from New Palestine, Indiana, an intern who had worked at the center for just two weeks.

The center said Black was among a group of employees cleaning the enclosure under the direction of an animal keeper. One of the lions, a male named Matthai, managed to escape a locked area and approach the group.

The lion "quickly killed" Black, the sheriff's office said. Several attempts to sedate the lion were unsuccessful, and deputies eventually shot and killed the lion to safely retrieve the victim's body. It remains unclear how the lion managed to get out.

The Conservators Center is home to 80 animals of 21 different species, including 15 lions, many of which were rescued from poor living conditions in Ohio in 2004, according to its website. The site described Matthai as "a little nervous by nature" but "an enthusiastic recipient of attention from the people he knows best." A video on the center's YouTube page shows Matthai roaring.

Matthai Lion Roaring by Conservators Center on YouTube

The center said it was "devastated by the loss of a human life" and will be closed until further notice.

First published on December 30, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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