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Conservationist dies after being attacked by beloved white lioness

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Conservationist West Mathewson dies after being attacked on walk by beloved white lioness.

West Mathewson with one of his beloved white lionesses. Picture: Facebook Lion Tree Top Lodge

Cape Town – Attacked by one of his beloved white lionesses, well-known conservationist and animal lover West Mathewson died from his injuries on the premises of the Lion Tree Top Lodge in Limpopo.

The 68-year-old Mathewson was the owner of the lodge outside Hoedspruit, a town at the foot of the Klein Drakensberg.

Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo confirmed that an inquest has been opened after the incident occurred around 8.30am on Wednesday, the Lowvelder reported.

According to the Lethaba Herald, a representative of the farm said he went for his usual walk with the lions. His wife followed in a vehicle.

One of the lionesses, however, became aggressive towards the other lioness but then turned her attention to Mathewson, injuring his groin, which led to severe bleeding.

His wife managed to alert the neighbours but it was unfortunately too late.

At the time of the incident, there were no guests present and following the incident the lionesses were darted and moved to a sanctuary.

“The police and emergency services were activated and on arrival, the man was found with multiple injuries. He was declared dead on the scene.

“The lionesses have since been moved to another game lodge in the area,” Mojapelo said.

Affectionately known as “Uncle West” by the locals, he kept the two white lionesses, Demi and Tanner, on his property. They were rescued from a canned lion hunting farm outside Polokwane a few years ago and West hand-reared them as cubs, according to the lodge’s website.

In 2017, the lions escaped from their enclosure and killed a lodge worker who was collecting firewood.

West described the lions as friendly and non-aggressive in a telephonic interview he had with Africa Geographic after that attack.

He also said that he walked with the animals between three to four hours a day.

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