JOHANNESBURG • A South African conservationist has been killed by one of the two lions he hand-reared, his family has said.
Mr West Mathewson, 69, was walking two white lionesses on Wednesday when one of the animals attacked and killed him without warning. The incident took place on the premises of the family-owned Lion Tree Top Lodge, in South Africa’s northern Limpopo province.
Known as “Uncle West”, he had raised the lions since they were cubs and was used to interacting with them.
Mr Mathewson’s wife, Gill, 65, was driving behind her husband when the lion attacked.
“She tried her best to rescue her husband, but was unable to do so,” said a statement by family attorney Marina Botha e-mailed to Agence France-Presse on Thursday.
The lions have been temporarily moved to a facility while a decision on their final destination is made.
The family said that they would be “released into the best environment available to them”.
Mr Mathewson and his wife had four sons and six grandchildren.
“The family is heartbroken by the loss of their husband, father and grandfather,” the statement said.
“They find comfort and peace with the fact that he died while living his dream, being in nature and with his lions that were so close to his heart.”