South African conservationist killed by lions he reared

South African conservationist killed by lions he reared

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A South African conservationist has been killed by he hand-reared. West Mathewson, 69, was walking two white lionesses on Wednesday when one of the animals attacked and killed him without warning, his family said on Thursday.

The incident took place on the premises of the family-owned Lion Tree Top Lodge, in ’s northern Limpopo province.

West Mathewson was a well known conservationist in South Africa. Photograph: Lion Tree Top Lodge

Known as “Uncle West”, Mathewson had raised the lions since they were cubs and was used to interacting with them.

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,” family attorney Marina Botha said in a statement.

In 2017, the two white lions reportedly escaped from the lodge and killed a man working at a neighbouring property, Ngama Lodge. Mathewson said at the time that the lions were not aggressive and that he walks with them three to four hours a day.

The lions have be temporarily moved to a facility while a decision on their future is made. The family assured they would be “released into the best environment available to them”.

Mathewson is believed to have rescued the lions from “” – when animals are hunted in an enclosed area, or are bred for hunting.

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 from Botha said. “They find comfort and peace with the fact that he died while living his dream, being in nature and with his lions.”

This article was first published by The Guardian on 28 August 2020. Lead Image: West Mathewson was killed by two of his lions during a walk around the lodge he ran, South African police said. Photograph: Lion Tree Top Lodge.


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Robert Piller
Robert Piller

A tragedy. The world needs as many real conservationists as it can get.

Janet Kenedy

Rest In Peace “West Mathewson’ you gave your Love to the Wild. This is a very sad and heartbreaking story for West Mathewson and his Lion Family, they knew no better than the Wild they were born with. My Condolences to his Wife, Children and Grandchildren. May those Beautiful Lions be allowed to roam free in the Wild along with other Lions as they were never able to since birth. It wouldn’t be fair not to. I’m sure West and his Family would want them to be free. You cannot take the Wild out of a Lion.