Dianna Hanson, 24, was attacked and killed by a 4-year-old male African lion named Cous Cous Wednesday afternoon at Cat Haven in Dunlap, where she had been working as an intern for two months, ABC News reported.
The lion was killed by a Fresno County sheriff's deputy responding to a report of the attack, authorities said.
"The lion was shot and killed per our safety protocols," Dale Anderson, founder and executive director of Project Survival Cat Haven, which manages Cat Haven, said Wednesday.
Hanson's father, Paul, told ABC News: "Anybody who works with cats knows that they are wild animals and they can turn even on people closest to them. So I always had this horrible, nagging premonition that I would get a call like this."
Paul Hanson said he wondered why his daughter was in the lion's enclosure, as the sanctuary was closed at the time.
"How she ever got inside the cage and why she would be inside the cage, because I thought she made it real clear that they don't let anybody in the cage except the owner," he said.
Dianna Hanson had trained with other big cats while studying at Western Washington State University. She also traveled to Africa to work with large cats, her father said. She was completing an internship at Cat Haven as a requirement she needed from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to work at a zoo.
"Di, we will always love you. And we will miss you so much. But I know that you will be happy. For now, you truly are in the eternal 'Cat Haven,'" Paul Hanson said in the statement.
A necropsy will be performed on Cous Cous, which lived at the sanctuary since he was 8 weeks old, to try to determine the cause of the attack, authorities said.
Cat Haven was closed to visitors Thursday.