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South African mauled to death by his two white lions in front of wife

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A South African man identified as West Mathewson, has been mauled to death by two lionesses after he opened the paddock he kept them in to take them for a morning walk.

West Mathewson, 68, was mauled to death by the two adult white lions which he had kept since they were cubs rescued from a “canned hunting farm” where wild animals are hunted in enclosures.

He was killed during a walk on Wednesday morning around the game lodge that he ran, South African police confirmed.

Mathewson was dead with multiple injuries at the time the police and emergency services arrived at his lodge.

“The deceased walked about with these lions on the game farm. It looks like the lions were used to him, but the police often advise people always to be wary of wild animals regardless of the circumstances under which they are kept,” Brigadier Motlafela said.

Photos on the website of the Lion Tree Game Lodge showed visitors photographed posing with the lions.

The lions have been relocated to another game lodge till further notice, police added.

Mathewson’s daughter-in-law Tehri Fergusson, told newsmen it was unclear why the lions had killed him but said they had not tried to eat him, suggesting his death could have been the result of “rough play”.

“We will only know why he died when we have the results of the autopsy,” she said.

“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 wife Gill, 65, stepped in to try to save her husband from the two 400lb (180kg) animals but the lions had already inflicted fatal injuries, according to the police.

The pair of lions had previously killed another man. In 2017, they both broke out of their enclosure by climbing up a tree and jumping over the fence and attacked a worker and his friend on a neighbouring property.

At the time, Mathewson stressed that the pair of lions were friendly and not aggressive and that he walked them for three to four hours per day.

The Mathewson family runs a safari company named Lion Tree Top Lodge, near the town of Hoedspruit, about 280 miles northwest of Johannesburg.

Ms Fergusson said the lions had been tranquilised and temporarily moved to a shelter for endangered animals.

According to the Telegraph, the mature animals may then be released into the wild for the first time.

Ms Fergusson said: “They are in a safe place now and they will be cared for and loved, and then they will be let loose into the wild, but they will not be returning here.”


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