Blocked Gate Allowed Lion to Savage North Carolina Zoo Intern, Says Witness

A gate blocked by a ball at a North Carolina zoo allowed a lion to maul a 22-year-old intern to death, an eyewitness told investigators. Alex Black died from multiple deep lacerations to her neck with significant blood loss after the attack, which took place at the Conservators Center in Burlington on Dec. 30. Animal trainer Ashley Watts says she separated the 14-year-old lion, named Matthai, into a section of an enclosure, but the gate that secures the section was blocked by a large ball. The lion entered the area that Watts, Black, and a second intern were cleaning and proceeded to attack Black, according to Watts, whose testimony was included in a medical examiner’s report. Watts says she tried to separate them, but Matthai bit Black’s ankle and pulled her into the enclosure. The lion then dragged Black around the enclosure by her neck “for an extended amount of time,” according to the report, before deputies shot the lion dead to ensure Black’s body could be safely recovered. However, the center disputes that the gate was obstructed by a ball, saying the claim is “neither accurate nor plausible.”