A well-known conservationist who reared two rare white lionesses since they were cubs has been mauled to death by them.

Nature lover, West Mathewson, had unlocked their cage to take them for a walk when one of the animals turned on him.


The 68-year-old ran a popular South African safari and lodge - known as Lion Treetop Lodge - which is located near the town of Hoedspruit, around 280 miles north west of Johannesburg.

According to reports from The Sun, Mr Mathewson was playfully wrestling with his beloved animals - named Demi and Tanner - when one turned on him.

His wife, Gill, 65, tried to save her husband by distracting the 400lb lionnesses but it was unfortunately too late. They had already inflicted fatal injuries which led to Mr Mathewson passing away while en route to hospital.


Mr Mathewson's daughter-in-law, Tehri Fergusson, told The Telegraph that his death could have been a result of 'very rough play', saying: "We will only know why he died when we have the results of the autopsy.

"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."

The animals were tranquilised following the attack which took place on Wednesday (26 August) and have since been moved to another game lodge. It's expected that they will be released into the wild at a later stage.


The same animals attacked a farm worker who also died back in 2017 at the Lion Treetop Lodge. Despite this latest incident, a spokesperson for the lodge confirmed that Demi and Tanner would 'definitely not be put down'.

They added: "West loved those cats as much as he loved his children and spent much of the day with them every day. They didn't mean him any harm and it was just a tragic accident."

People have paid tribute to Mr Mathewson on the Lodge's Facebook page. One said: "Sincere condolences to Gill and the rest of the family. The world has lost a great man. It was an honour and privilege to have shared many times with him. RIP!"

Another added: "RIP Westy So sad to hear the horrific news. My walk with the girls was one of the best experiences in my life."

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