BURLINGTON, N.C. "A lion killed a worker at a wildlife conservatory on Sunday after it was released from a locked room," the center said.
The lion was shot and killed after it had attacked the worker in a cabinet cleaned at the Conservators Center in Caswell County, said the center in a statement.
A "farming team" led by a professionally trained animal keeper was routinely cleaned when the lion somehow became loose, the center said.
It was not clear how the lion left the area to be locked, the center said, which will be closed until further notice.
"The conservatory is destroyed by the loss of a human life today," the statement said.
The center said the lion was shot and killed to allow county personnel to retrieve the injured worker.
"This is an ongoing survey, we have no further details at this time, and the family has not yet been notified. We will provide more information we know more," the statement said.
Founded in 1999, the resort is located in Burlington, approximately 50 miles northwest of Raleigh.
On the website, the center said that it began providing public tours in 2007 and receiving over 16,000 visitors annually. It has more than a dozen employees and currently houses more than 80 animals and more than 21 species.
The center said it took in 14 lions and tigers in 2004 to assist the US Department of Agriculture with care for animals that lived in "unacceptable conditions".
A request for comment was left by a spokesman for the county screen office.