ASHEBORO, N.C. -- North Carolina Zoo animal experts extend their empathy to the employees at the Conservators Center in Caswell County after the death of Alexandra Black.
Just 10 days into her internship, Black was mauled by a lion while a professionally trained team did a routine enclosure cleaning.
"This is a really heartbreaking time. They've lost not only a staff member and a friend but they've lost one of their animals," said Jennifer Ireland, North Carolina Zoo mammal curator
Like the Conservators Center, wildlife experts at North Carolina Zoo have specific procedures in place when dealing with dangerous animals.
“Whenever we want to enter into an enclosure, we will shift them to an adjacent space and secure them in that space,” Ireland said.
“In many cases, we will put two doors between us and those animals-- meaning if one door were to fail there is still another door that the animal would have to get to before they would get to the person,” she said.
Ireland says they have two zookeepers verify the security of the space during any activity within the animals' enclosures.
“Both of them check to make sure locks are locked, both of them check to make sure the doors are locked. Both of them will make sure the doors are closed. Both will check the location of where the animals are. And both of them will check the location of all of the other staff members in the area,” Ireland said.
Every day, zookeepers come in contact with dangerous animals and are aware of the risks that come with the job. The recent incident at the Conservators Center has prompted the zoo to look at improving their safety measures where dangerous animals are housed.
“We look at this stuff all of the time but when things like this happen, it just reminds us that we're going to look again,” Ireland said.
The zoo says anytime there’s a loss of life, whether it's a person or one of their animals, they hope people will show support during the difficult time.
“In situations like this the keepers are going to need counseling and support because this is an extremely tragic experience to lose a friend and an animal that they cared for,” Ireland said.
The investigation continues as to how the lion was able to escape. The Conservators Center will remain closed until further notice.