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March 6th, 2013
09:58 PM ET

Jungle Jenny on her interaction with African lion Cous Cous: "I didn't see any type of aggressive behavior"

Tonight, "Piers Morgan Tonight" welcomed Jenny Michaels, AKA Jungle Jenny, to the program to discuss the fatal lion attack at Project Survival's Cat Haven earlier today.

Michaels, the founder of The Jungle Jenny Foundation, met Cous Cous, the 350-pound African lion, in 2010 and said she did not feel threatened while interacting with the cat. "There was no indication when I was in the cage - in the enclosure with Cous Cous that made me feel uncomfortable," Michaels said. "I didn't see any type of aggressive behavior or anything that I needed to be worried about while I was in with him."

Michaels stressed the fact that while it looked like she was having fun in the cage with Cous Cous, proper protocol was being followed:

"My interaction over at Project Survival's Cat Haven, they've been very professional, and they've always ran their protocol very strictly," said the self-described citizen scientist. "It did look like we were having a lot of fun, however, during that shoot, there were many people outside of that cage. If you can see in the video, the door was open and I was very close in proximity of that."

Watch the clip, and listen to the interview, as Jungle Jenny shares her own story from Project Survival's Cat Haven.
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Filed under: The Big Story
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Dave

    My thoughts are with the young girl who lost her life today.

    I have been in a lion enclosure in South Africa numerous times. When in with the cubs (less than 3 months) , I recall how they focused on my young 10 yr old nephew and continually approached and attacked him from the rear. The little guys were easy to deflect. With the older cubs up to 12 months I felt comfortable with one of the minders who was very controlling and disciplined. The final time I ever went into that enclosure was with a new employee who I felt was way out of their depth. I was continuously approached and circled by three siblings who worked as a team. They were definitely hunting me. I was encouraged and had no choice but to forcibly hit and discipline them – and I was a paying tourist. These animals were up to 150lbs and it was pretty scary. That day I stayed 3 mins and was done. Never again. These are bad ass wild animals

    March 7, 2013 at 12:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Debbie Horner

      It is very sad that this woman who so loved lions/animals had her life taken by such. HOWEVER these WILD ANIMALS will ALWAYS be wild to act or behave otherwise you will loose your life or anthers life along with the animal. The animal was behaving as WILD ANIMALS behave. It is not right to kill the animal when humans decide to cage them and climb in the cage. Does not matter if raised them as infants these are WILD ANIMALS. Sad indeed.

      March 7, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Larry

    Well, after listening to your show, both you and your guests, for several months, I've come to one conclusion...everyone under the age of 60 are mentally ill regardless of position in life.

    March 7, 2013 at 12:40 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Tim

    I have visited the Cat Haven on several times and can vouch for what Jenny Michaels stated. Dale Anderson (founder and owner) of the Cat Haven, runs a beautiful and safely run facility. The cats are very secure and treated with love and respect. They take their jobs very seriously as well as the safety of their guests. Their mission is one of education and preservation and is an amazing place to visit. I am saddened by the tragedy that occurred today but I would caution anyone to automatically jump to conclusions that it was a dangerously run facility because it is far from that. My condolences go out to the family of the intern. I however will still support the Cat Haven and its mission of education and preservation.

    March 7, 2013 at 12:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Carol

    I didn't even need to see or read the article to know that they had destroyed the lion. As Jack Hanna said....... and he is my gold standard here........... these are wild animals. Cats.... any cats...... big or small........... have not, even as we speak, been domesticated. Mostly they tolerate us at their convenience. Dogs, canines, or wolves, lupus, are an entirely different matter. And so, why would anyone enter an enclosure of a big cat, and expect its behavior to be predictable? Tragically presumptuous on the part of the human, I would say.......... I have a 12th grade education, and even I get it. Why would one blame the cat for doing that which simply comes natural to it when something enters its enclosure ?........ and, btw, that cat REALIZES it is in captivity. Mores the pity that these cats have been destroyed in the wild....... they exist only in captivity........ and now we have one fewer, through no fault of its own.

    As an animal lover, humane society member....... as someone who has and loves her dogs and cats and has taken in fallen squirrels, baby bunnies, birds.............. rescued an opossum............

    I am very sorry for the death of the young intern. Very sorry. I can only assume that she was following her heart to work with such animals to help give them the best care that she could.

    But I cannot blame the lion for doing what ........... apparently...............instinct compelled it to do at that moment.

    I do my best to care for my fellow animals............. be they 2- or 4-legged............... I believe............ God is watching........ the care of His creatures matters to Him.

    March 7, 2013 at 1:09 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Charlee

      I agree with you one hundred percent Carol. You are absolutely right. These are beautiful, regal, amazing animals. They are still animals. Wild animals. We should never forget that and always respect that. Unfortunately things like this happen on occassion. My heart and prayers go out to that intern's family. That is definitely a horrific way to go. But I will always stand on the side of these beautiful animals first. I still believe in the efforts that this cat haven, and all those that protect them, provide.

      March 7, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jenny

    To Carol : Walk in to a Lion's cage and let's see how God watches you.

    March 7, 2013 at 7:07 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Truth please

    When will you invite Ellen Mariani? Why has she refused millions of hush money? Who is stopping the truth and why?

    March 7, 2013 at 7:16 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Susan

    I am very sorry about the death of the intern. I am also very sorry about the death of the lion. He was killed for being what he was. Carol, thank you for your eloquent words. We all lose when situations like this occur.

    March 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. PaulKnight

    The thing that I see over and over is lets kill the animal.Police have no respect for life.The aninmals dont ask to be caged,but we cage them anyway and when they attack us we call the police to kill them.sad sad sad ......

    March 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Loulou

    The police are far too trigger happy. They've been known to shoot the family dog even while under the control of the owner, or when he happily comes bounding out of the house to greet them. The woman's father said she was fearless. Well that's what killed her. She should never have gone in there. It's not the lion's fault and not the fault of anyone at Cat Haven. It breaks my heart that a majestic creature such a Cous Cous has lost his life to the arrogance and/or ignorance of a human being. Just add his name to the list of billions we've already massacred. Our species should be deeply ashamed.

    March 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. ritalu

    Althought my sympathies fgo out to the family for their loss.

    The fact of the matter is that is a wild animal not a domesticated house cat. Why go into the cage,? She went into the lion's cage not the other way around

    The lion should not have been killed. Shame on everyone involved. It does not say much for the human race and their idiotic decision making.

    March 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ritalu


    Many thanks for your eloquent expression.

    You missed the point entirely. You just don't get it. You do not walk into a Lion's cage.

    March 7, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Loulou

      I got the impression Jenny was being ironic...

      March 7, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. bigfanx

    Condolences to Ms Hanson's family, co-workers, and friends. It's so very sad that Cous Cous had to be killed.

    Ms Hanson may have been doing what she wanted to do career-wise but she made an extremely inapproprate and uneducated decisioin to enter the enclosure. What is the sanctuary's safety protocol? Why did she go in – presumably alone? Where was her spotter? Too many questions remain.

    Ms Hanson and Cous Cous would still be alive right now if protected contact existed for every sanctuary that shelters any and all exotic animals.

    March 7, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Meg

    Why the hell was the Lion killed because it attacked a person IN ITS cage?!?!? What the f is wrong with this world??

    March 7, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Carol

      Absolutely, dear ....... I could not agree more.............. with both points you make.

      March 7, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Parish

    Could be that for medical first responders to get near the intern, it was necessary to put the animal down.

    March 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Lauren

    Lions should not be in cages

    March 7, 2013 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Donna

    There should be federal regulations that prohibit people who keep these large carnivores from allowing their workers, volunteers and interns into the adult lion pens. Further, Congress should take action on a bill like HR 4122 (introduced last year), which would prohibit private ownership of big cats by anyone other than AZA-accredited zoos and legitimate wildlife sanctuaries. Cat Haven is neither...and this tragedy might have been prevented if such a law had been in effect. It is unconscionable that anyone who wants to can buy these endangered big cats, put them in enclosures and call themselves a "wildlife sanctuary". According to lion experts, the death of this intern was avoidable. "People should have zero access to big cats, even when they are cubs," says Patty Finch, executive director of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. "There is no safe way to be inside of an enclosure with a lion that is conscious." Jungle Jenny is lucky to be alive. Her statement that "they've always ran their protocol very strictly" is absurd.

    March 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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    You really should explore this issue further:

    March 8, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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