PITTSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – After a 22-year-old intern was killed by a lion at a North Carolina wildlife conservatory, CBS 17 went to Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro to get their reaction to the incident.
CBS 17 wanted to know more about the safety procedures Carolina Tiger Rescue has in place to prevent accidents like this from happening.
Alexandra Black lost her life when a lion slipped past a locked area at the Conservators Center near Burlington and attacked her.
“This is an incredible tragedy,” said Kathryn Bertok, assistant director at Carolina Tiger Rescue. “Something you never want to see in any facility. When I first heard it my stomach dropped. Working with animals is dangerous and you never want to have somebody get hurt and you certainly don’t want somebody to lose their life.”
Black had recently graduated college and was working as an intern at the center. Bertok has worked at Carolina Tiger Rescue for 19 years.
She also started as an intern.
“It was something that became a huge passion of mine,” Bertok said. “I am confident this was a passion for Ms. Black as well and it’s tragic the way things have ended for this young life and the situation in general.”
Bertok says to her knowledge there was only one incident at Carolina Tiger Rescue where someone was attacked by one of their animals.
In 1998, a volunteer was mauled by a cougar while cleaning their cages.
Bertok says this was before they became a no touch shelter.
Staff and volunteers at Carolina Tiger Rescue do not touch the animals at all unless it is for a medical procedure and they are under anesthesia.
“Our policy of no touch is really born out of safety,” Bertok explained. “These are wild animals. It does not matter how long you have worked with them. It does not matter how they were raised, if they were handled by people their entire lives, once they’re grown they’re grown. They’re a wild animal. They have wild instincts.”
Carolina Tiger Rescue has safety cages like this one located throughout the sanctuary just in case an animal ever were to get out.
“These are enclosures that do not have animals in them that are open all the time that are unlocked so that if we were to have an animal escape that everybody has a place they can go and get into someplace safe,” said Bertok.
Bertok says their staff and volunteers have regular safety training to make sure they are prepared for anything.