U.S.

North Carolina Lion Attack Update: 911 Call Audio Released After Deadly Attack at Wildlife Park

As investigators still search for answers as to how the attack was possible, officials released audio from the 911 call that was placed following a deadly lion attack at a North Carolina wildlife park.

Alexandra Black, a 22-year-old intern at the Conservators Center in Burlington, North Carolina, was killed after a lion attacked her while she was cleaning its enclosure on Sunday. During a 911 call placed after the attack, which was published by The News & Observer, a woman, identified during the call as Julie, calmly told a dispatcher that there was a lion attack.

The dispatcher asked about the extent of the person's injuries and the woman from the center responded, “They are incapacitated.” Julie also gave Black’s age and explained that she was on her way to the enclosure, but that another staff member was with Black.

“The lion is contained,” Julie told the dispatcher after she was asked if the victim was away from the animal.

During the phone call, the woman remained calm and gave the dispatcher explicit directions as to how emergency personnel could find their way to the enclosure. The call ended with the dispatcher informing the woman that emergency personnel were already on their way and to call back with any information about the victim’s injuries.

Following the attack, the Conservators Center posted on Facebook that they were heartbroken over the death of Black, who was at the center for a husbandry internship. The center explained that she was working with a husbandry team cleaning a lion enclosure when the lion, identified as Matthai, escaped a locked, separate holding enclosure. After entering the area where Black and the team was working, he killed the 22-year-old.

“Although Alex was with us for a very short time, she made an impact on our community,” the center said. “We are a close-knit family of paid staff and volunteers and are devastated by the loss of this vibrant, smart young woman.”

audio 911 call lion attack north carolina conservators center Lions in there enclosure during the ZSL London Zoo annual stock take at ZSL London Zoo on February 7 in London. Audio was released of a 911 call placed after a deadly lion attack at a North Carolina wildlife park. Joe Maher/Getty Images

Black was from Palestine, Indiana, and completed multiple internships during her life, the most recent being at Wolf Park in Battleground, Indiana.

Matthai was born at the Conservators Center after his mother was given to the center in 2004 and was 14-years-old at the time of the attack. During the mauling, first responders euthanized the lion.

The center explained that big cats are moved into a separate space and secured before husbandry teams enter enclosures. An investigation was launched to determine specifics of the attack and how the lion was able to escape the secured enclosure and kill the 22-year-old.

Along with the investigation that was launched by the center and the Caswell County Sheriff’s Office, the Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHA) will launch an investigation of its own, according to WTVD. Inspectors will review safety records and interview any witnesses to determine if any occupational safety and health standards were violated.

Kitty Block, Acting President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, called it a “tragic incident." She added, "Sadly this incident illustrates the need for strong legislation to better restrict the private possession of dangerous wild animals."

Block said North Carolina residents can easily acquire big cats, bears and other dangerous animals. She pointed to a 10-year-old boy who was killed by his uncle’s pet tiger, a 3-year-old boy who was blinded by his father’s pet tiger and Black’s death as an argument for stronger legislation.

“We urge lawmakers at the federal and at the state level to effectively put an end to this ongoing problem by passing legislation to ban the private possession of dangerous wild animals, which would protect the public, first responders, as well as animals,” Block said.

Founded in 1999 in Mebane, North Carolina, the center was relocated in 2001. After receiving 14 lions and tigers that were confiscated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2004, the center opened its doors to public tours in 2007 to help with funding. Over 80 animals currently call the center home and it employs about a dozen full and part-time people.

 

 

 

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