(CNN) – The zoo practitioner who killed a fugitive lion in North Carolina "loved animals" and wanted to work with them, telling the family.
Alexandra Black, a 22-year-old girl who only graduated from Indiana University, had been an intern at the Burlington Conservators Center for about two weeks when she was killed on Sunday, said Caswell County Sheriff's Office.
The center said the male lion, identified as Matthai, escaped from a cabinet and attacked Black while she and others were cleaning another area.
In a statement by WXIN, a CNN agent in Indianapolis, Black's family said he died "after his passion."
"Alex loved animals." Our beautiful, intelligent and passionate Alex had worked without pay at several animal-related businesses, most recently at Wolf Park in Battleground, Ind. This was her fourth internship, because she really wanted to make a career with animal work, "they said.
Black was born in New Palestine, Indiana, according to the Sheriff's office.
She had started working at the Conservatory Center, her first foreign statistics, ten days ago, her family said. The young woman worked in breeding, or in the care of the animals.
"She was a beautiful young woman who had just started her career, it was a terrible accident and we are in grief," said the family.
They asked people to donate to Wolf Park to honor Black.
Conservative center, "destroyed"
The conservatory said a breeding team was cleaning the connection when the attack occurred.
"One of the lions somehow came out of a closed room and entered the room where people were and quickly killed a person," the center said on its Facebook page.
"When our farms clean large cat gangs, they follow a safety protocol that involves moving animals to a separate room and securing them before humans enter the adjoining room," the center said in a statement. "Details of what happened are still under investigation."
Black worked under the supervision of an employee, said the center's managing director, Mindy Stinner, according to WNCN, a CNN affiliate.
Male lion was shot dead
Stinner said that all large cats are locked in a separate area from humans during routine cleaning.
"Do not, at some point, enter a room that was not enclosed by the park's perimeter barrier," he said.
Central officials said Matthai, 14, was born at the facility shortly after the mother was taken there as a result of state-assisted confiscation in 2007. He was sacrificed after Black's death, the authorities said.
Stinner said the visitors were in the park, but officials pulled them out safely and quickly.
"This is not a situation we have had before, security is a very, very important function in running any zoo," he said.
No one else was injured in the attack.
The center is closed until further notice
The zoo houses more than 80 animals, including tigers, small wild cats and other small predators, according to its website. It offers guided walking tours near animal air. The park is regulated by the US Department of Agriculture, according to Stinner.
Stinner, a teacher, founded the center in 1999 in Mebane as an ideal educational organization to home to certain species of predators, according to the Centre's website. It was moved to an area of 18 hectares in 2004, the website said.
Stinner said he started doing rescue work and sanctuary, but he moved away from that weight and worked with several species and tried to get the community more involved. "We like to think of ourselves as a kind of community animal park," he said.
The center is closed until further notice, officials said.
"We must evaluate our situation, and we must make sure everyone here is safe and secure," said Stinner, "because this is very scary."
The center said it appreciated the great concern of the black family and traumatized employees.
"Even though Alex was with us for a very short time, it had an impact on our community, we are a close family of employees and volunteers and are ruined by the loss of this lively and intelligent young woman."
Kaylee Hartung from CNN reported from Burlington. Phil Gast and Lechelle Bench from CNN contributed to this report.