A South African conservationist was mauled to death by two white lions while he was taking them for a walk on Wednesday morning. The conservationist had reared the lionesses himself ever since he rescued them as cubs many years ago, BBC reported.
The 69-year-old wildlife conservationist, West Mathewson, was attacked by the pair of lionesses during a routine morning walk around his safari lodge, Lion Tree Top Lodge, located in the Limpopo province of South Africa, according to an AFP report.
In the midst of some rough play, the lionesses allegedly turned their attention to the conservationist, fondly called ‘Uncle West’, a BBC report stated. “We have to realise, West was not as young as he thought he was. We are still not sure what actually happened but there was very rough play,” Mathewson’s daughter-in-law Tehri Fergusson told the Telegraph.
When the lionesses grew aggressive, Mathewson’s wife — who was following closely behind in her car — tried to distract them. “She tried her best to rescue her husband, but was unable to do so,” their family attorney Marina Both said in a statement.
After the incident, both the lionesses were tranquilised and sent to an endangered species centre. Mathewson’s family is yet to decide the future of the animals.
“The family is heartbroken by the loss of their husband, father and grandfather,” Botha told the Guardian. “They find comfort and peace with the fact that he died while living his dream, being in nature and with his lions.”
In 2017, the same lionesses had escaped from their enclosure at Lion Tree Top lodge and killed an employee of a neighbouring wildlife lodge, Africa Geographic reported.
Mathewson had rescued the two lionesses from ‘canned hunting’, where animals are pursued by hunters in a closed enclosure.