"She was never happier than she's been in her whole life than at Cat Haven," said Dianna's father, Paul Hanson. He described the young intern as a fearless individual, boldly pursuing her life's mission. "She was not afraid to take risks, to pursue it. To do what she needed to do and let education be the focus."
Dianna was interning with Project Survival's Cat Haven at the time of her death. She had just started volunteering at the sanctuary two months ago where she would feed the animals and clean their enclosures.
Being surrounded by the big cats was Dianna's dream. "From an early age, when she had just started drawing things, it was tigers," recalled Dianna's brother, Paul.
Dianna's father says her dream as a little girl was to go to Siberia and study Siberian tigers.
It wasn't the first time Dianna volunteered with a conservation group. Before coming to California, she volunteered with The Snow Leopard Trust in Seattle. "Dianna was just radiant when it came to talking about the cats. She would be talking to someone about snow leopards and just easily start talking about tigers. She just loved big cats," said Jennifer Snell-Rullman with the non-profit group.
On Wednesday, Dianna's life was cut short by the lion she cared for, named Cous Cous. "She was well aware of the power these animals possessed … and how powerful they were," said Dianna's brother.
Family members say the way Dianna's life ended is a tragedy but aren't blaming anyone for the freak accident. "She lived her dream and would very much want to make it clear to all people to not be afraid of lions and tigers and support them and save them from extinction," said her father.
According to her father, Dianna was hoping to stay in California and work at the Chaffee Zoo once her internship ended in July.