A bright, promising, adventurous young woman's life was cut painfully short yesterday. Dianna Hanson, a 26-year-old intern, was attacked and killed by a lion at a cat sanctuary. And the circumstances of her death are raising a lot of questions.
Dianna was alone with just one other volunteer at the 93-acre Project Survival's Cat Haven. She and that volunteer were feeding the animals around noon. Dianna took a huge risk yesterday that put her in danger. Why didn't anyone stop her? Surely this horrific death could have been prevented.
The standard procedure for feeding the cats is that you enter the feeding area with food while the cats are in a separate, larger enclosure. Only after you have left the food behind and exited the feeding area do you let the cats into the feeding area. You're never to be in the same space with the cats. Dianna didn't follow that procedure. She was in the feeding area with a lion -- a 4-year-old male named Cous Cous.
Paul Hanson, Dianna's father, had a premonition this would happen:
Anybody who works with cats knows that they are wild animals and they can turn even on people closest to them. So I always had this horrible, nagging premonition that I would get a call like this.
God, that's heartbreaking. Paul has described Dianna as "absolutely fearless." And that's not surprising to hear about a 26-year-old who volunteers at a big cat sanctuary. What is surprising is that two young volunteers were left unsupervised with wild animals. The other volunteer was supposedly more experienced, but still a volunteer. Why wasn't there an experienced full-time employee around? Do the volunteers really get the kind of training they need to take the sancturary's rules seriously?
I can't know what was going through Dianna's mind when she took that risk. But I think sometimes people who love animals and feel a deep connection with them forget that wild animals are still ... wild! And capable of killing you. Why would a lion attack the person who loves them and feeds them? Because that lion is a wild animal, not a human. (If you get the chance, the amazing movie Grizzly Man is all about this idea.)
So knowing that wild animals are wild, and that you have volunteers (young people with their whole lives ahead of them) feeding your wild animals -- wouldn't you want more supervision? Wouldn't you want to take every precaution to protect those volunteers? I know the park is about saving big cats, but there's no reason to sacrifice people for that cause, especially not this way. Now we have this dreadful tragedy, and someone will have to answer for Dianna's death.
Do you think the volunteers and park managers were lulled into a false sense of security with the cats?