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Lion Escaped Cage By Lifting Its Handle Before Attacking 24-Year-Old Intern

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Today we have more answers about why a 24-year-old volunteer at a cat sanctuary found herself in an enclosure with an African lion who killed her by snapping her neck.

Reporters were invited to take a look at the cage at Project Survival's Cat Haven in Dunlap, California where the attack occurred. An Associated Press video that we've embedded above shows a small cage connected to a larger enclosure by a gate that opens by being pulled up.

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The smaller cage is where the animals are fed, and the larger enclosure is where they play and exercise. Typically, caregivers put food in the small cage, get out and then let the animals into the small cage from the larger cage. This way they're never in the same space at the same time.

The volunteer Dianna Hanson was cleaning up in the larger enclosure at the time of the attack. (She describes her internship on her Facebook page by saying, "I'm pretty handy with the poop spoon.") She was also chatting on the phone with one of her coworkers, according to NPR. The conversation was cut off abruptly and when Hanson didn't call back, her coworker alerted authorities. (Previous reports seemed to indicate that the coworker was at the scene, but that wasn't true initially.)

The coroner said that somehow the lion was able to pull up the handle from the smaller cage and escape into the larger enclosure, catching Hanson off-guard. The gate, which was described as heavy, was partially lifted already.

"The gate of the cage was partially open, which allowed the lion called Cous Cous to lift it up with his paw," Fresno County Coroner David Hadden told the AP. "He ran at the young lady."

A necropsy was supposed to be performed on the 4-year-old lion Cous Cous yesterday to find out if there were any underlying issues (aside from the fact that it's a wild animal, of course).

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The founder of Cat Haven Dale Anderson said he can't talk about the details of the investigation, but he showed reporters the site of the attack. There was a low moaning at the time of the tour, and Anderson explained that it was one of Cous Cous' companions who lived in the same enclosure: "That's Pele. She's upset. We've had workers come and sit with her a lot."

Related:
Coroner: Intern Attacked By Lion Died Almost Instantly From Paw Swipe After Animal Escaped Cage
24-Year-Old Intern Fatally Mauled By Lion Knew She Shouldn't Go Inside His Cage
Lion Mauls Volunteer At Exotic Cat Haven: 'Someone Just Got Too Close'