Sunday started as a typical day at the Conservators Center in Burlington, North Carolina. Visitors meandered through the property and took pictures of wildlife and zoo staff performed routine maintenance duties. It was during a cage cleaning that a lion broke free and killed an intern at the zoo. 22-year-old Alexandra Black, a native of New Palestine, Indiana, and a recent graduate of Indiana State University, was killed onsite.
“While a husbandry team led by a professionally trained animal keeper was carrying out a routine enclosure cleaning, one of the lions somehow left a locked space and entered the space the humans were in and quickly killed one person,” the zoo said in a statement to the media. “The Conservators Center is devastated by the loss of a human life today.”
The incident took place while the zoo was open to the public but no one other than the victim was attacked. “At no time did the lion ever enter a space that was not enclosed by the park’s perimeter fence. There were visitors onsite, and we used our established safety protocol to ensure a safe and immediate exit from the animal park.”
The escaped lion was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies on the scene, though the zoo has yet to release further information on the incident. The Conservators Center will remain closed until further notice while a thorough investigation into how the lion managed to escape its enclosure is conducted.
Over 80 animals from more than 20 species live on the grounds, including 20 lions, tigers, and other big cats. According to The Guardian, in 2014, the zoo took in 14 lions and tigers “to assist the US Department of Agriculture with caring for animals that were living in ‘unacceptable conditions.’”
H/T: NBC News