An African lion attacked and killed a worker at a Californian cat sanctuary Wednesday, emergency officials quoted by local media said.

The incident happened at Project Survival's Cat Haven at Dunlap, some 225 miles (360 kilometers) north of Los Angeles, according to a state Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman, Tony Spada.

The park was closed at the time, according to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office cited by local ABC affiliate KFSN-TV, which said two workers were inside the park, and one inside the cage with a male lion called Cous Cous.

Further details were not immediately available. Spada said attacks were "very rare" because of safety measures required by California law, which minimize contact between workers and animals at such sanctuaries.

"This facility has a very good history," Spada told the local Fresno Bee newspaper, adding: "In this case, someone just got too close."

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[Lion in nature reserve via Shutterstock]