West Mathewson: How 68-year-old South African conservationist was mauled to death by his 2 fully-grown lionesses
A conservationist was mauled to death by two 400 lbs lionesses whom he had rescued and kept at his South African safari lodge. 68-year-old West Mathewson was attacked by the two beasts after he unlocked their enclosure to take them out for a morning walk, the BBC reported. 65-year-old Gill, his wife, tried to distract the 400 lbs lionesses, named Tanner and Demi, in a bid to save her husband's life. However, they had already inflicted fatal injuries.
According to the report, Mathewson ran a popular safari known as Lion Tree Top Lodge, located near Hoedspruit, a town nearly 300 miles northwest of Johannesburg. The lionesses had previously killed a man at a neighboring property after breaking out of his enclosure in 2017.
CapeTalk's Lester Kiewit spoke to South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo about what happened. "The deceased apparently took a walk with the two lionesses, they immediately pounced on him and attacked him and unfortunately mauled him to death," Mojapelo said. "Apparently he used to walk with them, I don't know what happened on this particular day."
Speaking to the Telegraph, Mathewson's daughter-in-law Tehri Fergusson said his death could have been the result of "very rough play." "We will only know why he died when we have the results of the autopsy," she told the publication. "We have to realize, West was not as young as he thought he was. We are still not sure what actually happened but there was very rough play." Following the tragic attack, the lionesses were tranquilized and taken to a local endangered species center. Fergusson said they will later be released into the wild.
According to the BBC, Matthewson had rescued the big cats from "canned hunting" – a sick arrangement wherein animals are hunted within an enclosed area or bred to be hunted. He later kept them at his lodge.
In February, we reported how a game reserve worker in South Africa was mauled to death by lions after she entered their enclosure to perform daily duties.
Swans van Wyke somehow managed to escape from the enclosure and alerted colleagues with her screams just moments after the attack at the game reserve located in Bela-Bela, Limpopo province, South Africa. However, she succumbed to her injuries and collapsed by the gate, according to reports.
Responding paramedics found the reserve worker covered in blood with deep bite and claw wounds. Despite their best efforts, van Wyke was pronounced dead at the scene. In a bid to get over the trauma from the attack, game lodge staffers who witnessed the aftermath -- as well as colleagues of van Wyke -- were offered counseling and time off from work.
Last August, 70-year-old Leon van Biljon – famously known as 'The Lion Man' – was mauled to death by lions in his own enclosure while he was trying to fix a broken fence.
He was reportedly sitting with his back to the three big cats, whom he owned when one of them attacked him around the neck. The veteran gamekeeper, who got his nickname as he was the owner of a number of lions at the Mahala View Lodge in the Dinokeng Game Reserve, was already dead by the time the paramedics arrived on the scene.
Rambo, Nakita, and Katryn – the three lions responsible for van Biljon's death – were shot dead later at the lodge in Hammanskraal, South Africa.