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Mar 12, 2013 10:12 AM by Samantha Ptashkin

Reid Park Zoo curator talks safety after deadly lion attack

TUCSON- The California animal sanctuary where an intern was recently killed by a lion is back open this week.

But the brutal freak attack has sparked questions about the safety of zookeepers and visitors.

Reid Park Zoo Curator Jim Schnormeier says it's important to remember, the cats are not our friends. "You have to treat them like they will eat you," Schnormeier says.

Right now the Reid Park Zoo has two lions. The adult female weighs more than 300 pounds. The adult male weighs more than 400 pounds. "We know if we get ourselves in a situation where we're in the same proximity as the animal, the same enclosure, our lives are on the line," Schnormeier says.

Zookeepers who take care of the cats carry two way radios and pepper spray at all times. "Whether it's a giraffe, a lion, or a bear, we have the same safety aspects involved to keep our staff safe," Schnormeier says.

The zoo also must keep visitors safe. The lions are enclosed by an 18-foot high metal fence, or thick layers of glass. "The only time the door is open is to shift your cats in and out into the yard, or back into the night house," Schnormeier says.

With all the safety regulations in place, most zoo visitors say they feel safe. "That's why they have signs and postings," says Visitor Darby Downs. "It's your responsibility to obey them and stay with your children."

But there is always that rare case, like the one in California which left 24-year-old Dianna Hanson dead. She had experience interacting with the animals. The tragic incident serves as just another reminder to never let your guard down.

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