Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Cous Cous' the Lion Innocent in Death of Handler, Family Says

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Cous Cous' the Lion Innocent in Death of Handler, Family Says

Article excerpt

A 550-pound African lion named 'Cous Cous' pried open the gate to a large cage near Fresno, Calif., this week, pouncing up to and swatting an intern zoo worker, Dianna Hanson, so hard she died.

On Friday, the reaction from the woman's family was not entirely unexpected. Instead of blaming the four-year-old animal, they called the incident a "tragic accident" that began with the animal's wits and ended with what was likely an example of "rough play" that instantly broke Ms. Hanson's neck. Law enforcement officers shot the lion as it paced near Ms. Hanson's body.

"It sounds like it was an accident. Maybe the latch had not been completely closed. ... You know, house cats are smart, they can open doors," Paul Hanson, the victim's father, told the Associated Press. "It wasn't a vicious attack."

According to a coroner's report, Hanson sustained other injuries after death, but the victim's family insisted that the lack of lacerations and bite marks on the neck the lion's standard kill spot suggests that it was not a willful attack by the animal.

While lions are often put down after zoo attacks, the usual reaction in the wake of zoo attacks runs closer to what's happening in Fresno: sympathy and understanding for the cat, and the natural risks of working with wild animals in enclosed settings.

The entertainer Roy Horn epitomized this attitude when inviting Montecore, the lion that nearly killed him in a 2003 attack, back to perform again with him for a special show in 2009.

Last September, Bronx Zoo authorities spared the life of Bashuta, an 11-year-old tiger, after the animal attacked a man who had jumped into the cat's enclosure. "The tiger was acting as a normal tiger does and did nothing wrong in this episode," Bronx Zoo Jim Breheny said at the time.

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The actress Tippi Hedren, founder of the Shambala Preserve in southern California, told Fox News that Cous Cous the lion should not have been killed

"It wasn't the lion's fault," Ms. …

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