South African Conservationist West Mathewson Killed by His Own White Lionesses

Mathewson had rescued the lionesses from canned hunting and was rearing them at his Lion Tree Top Lodge premises.

South African conservationist West Mathewson was killed by one of the white lionesses he had reared. He was attacked without any warning and was killed by the animal as his wife watched on helplessly.

The incident occurred at Mathewson's family-owned Lion Tree Top Lodge in Hoedspruit, South Africa. Mathewson was walking his two white lionesses when one of them attacked the 69-year-old owner, killing him. His wife is said to have been driving behind them and also tried to rescue her husband but in vain.

West Mathewson
South African Conservationist playing with his white lionesses in a file photo.

Mathewson Attacked Without Warning

The cubs were rescued by Mathewson from canned hunting years ago. Canned hunting is the killing of captive-bred wild animals trapped in small enclosures. It is also called trophy-hunting of lions in South Africa. The cubs rescued by Mathewson were being kept in an enclosure inside the lodge premises owned by him. On August 26, Mathewson, who is called 'Uncle West', was walking the lionesses when they started fighting and without any warning, one of the lionesses shifted her attention to Mathewson and attacked him.

Both the lionesses have been moved to a temporary enclosure and have been kept at an endangered species center. Their future will be decided by the forest authorities. Mathewson's family said the lionesses will be released into the best environment available to them.

Lioness' 2017 Attack on Ngama Lodge Staff

In fact, the lionesses had escaped the Lion Tree Top Lodge in 2017 and had killed a man working in the neighboring property. The lionesses are said to have climbed a tree and escaped to Ngama Lodge, ending up attacking an employee of the lodge, killing him. Reacting to the same, Mathewson had said that his lionesses were friendly and not aggressive. He told that he goes for a walk with the lions three to four hours every day.

After rescuing the cubs, the Tree Top Lodge's website stated: "Our facility will accommodate these animals for the rest of their lives. When the lions reach a certain age, guests will get to view the lions in their enclosure from a game drive vehicle". But after the attack on Ngama Lodge the lionesses were taken back to their enclosure and were kept there.

Mathewson has left behind his wife, four sons and six grandchildren. "The family is heartbroken by the loss of their husband, father and grandfather. They find comfort and peace with the fact that he died while living his dream, being in nature and with his lions" said family attorney Marina Botha in a statement released to the AFP news agency.