More lives lost as lion fatally mauls young woman at “sanctuary”

A video report on the mauling from - CBS Affilliate WFMY News

Yesterday, a 26-year old female intern at Project Survival Cat Haven in Dunlap, California—a place that calls itself a “sanctuary” for captive cats—was mauled to death by a 350-pound African lion called Cous Cous.

The tragic incident is still being investigated, but we now know that the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office was first to respond and that a deputy shot and killed the lion in order to try to give the woman medical assistance, but that it was too late.

Now there are two more victims to add to the ever-growing list of fatalities stemming from this country’s big cat trade epidemic.

We also now know that Cous Cous was born in captivity, and that the so-called “sanctuary” is known for breeding big cats in order to promote “conservation”: when he was a cub, Cous Cous was featured on Ellen, for example.

A true sanctuary does not breed; instead, these facilities provide animals permanent care and refuge to victims of the “pet” and exhibition trade, and do not allow their animals to be handled by the public or promote them for public exhibition.

And true conservation promotes protecting wildlife in the wild, not contributing to the false notion that big cats can be tamed or domesticated in any way, no matter how much we purport to love them.  

This problem will not solve itself.

Unless a change is made by lawmakers and the public taking this issue seriously—and truly understand what “conservation” means, I’m afraid there will be more tragedies like this one, and more law enforcement officers and other first responders that are neither trained nor financially equipped to deal with dangerous wildlife will be called to the scene.  

We have a long way to go in this country to fix this problem.

Possession and exploitative breeding of big cats only contributes to the interstate traffic in those species and may also contribute to illegal international wildlife trade.

People are often intrigued by the idea of keeping big cats like lions and tigers in captivity as pets. 

Big cats are wild animals that cannot be domesticated. 

As a result of private big cat ownership and breeding by roadside zoos and other exhibitors, casualties and dangerous incidents continue to pile up. Over the past two decades, there have been 22 deaths (five of which were children) and hundreds of dangerous incidents that stem directly from inappropriate big cat ownership. 

Without a nationwide ban on private big cat ownership, public safety and animal welfare will continue to be gravely compromised.  

In the next coming weeks, the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act will be reintroduced in Congress.

We'll update you on our progress, thanks for your ongoing support.


Visit our Big Cats in Captivity page for more information.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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