LOS ANGELES/HARARE (AFP) - An African lion attacked and killed a worker at a Californian cat sanctuary, while escaped lions killed two people near a Zimbabwean game reserve, wildlife authorities said Thursday, warning residents not to venture into the bush.

The incident happened at Project Survival’s Cat Haven at Dunlap, some 225 miles 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.

While Kariba, a resort town in Zimbabwe, Caroline Washaya-Moyo, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority spokesperson told AFP, “Two people, a male and female, were attacked and killed by lions. The authority together with the police immediately deployed manpower to hunt for the lions.” The authorities believe that two or more cats may have escaped from a reserve and have sent in professional hunters with expertise in tracking and shooting lions. One ranger has been injured in the hunt, after he was accidentally shot by the tracking teams.

The authorities are warning people in the Kariba, 365 kilometres (227 miles) north west of Harare to avoid travelling on foot at night and stop using foot paths that cut across thickets. Residents were also dissuaded from holding church meetings in the bush. Washaya-Moyo dispelled reports that another person was attacked by lions. Zimbabwe is home to several game reserves with wildlife that includes the so-called big five - elephants, lions, rhinoceros, buffalo and leopard.