Three Lions Shot Dead After Mauling Their Keeper To Death
The 70-year-old man, who has been named by local media outlets as Leon van Biljon, is thought to have been fixing a broken fence at the Mahala View Lion Game Lodge in Cullinan, east of the capital Pretoria.
According to Netwerk24, one of the lions then went for his neck.
He is said to have died by the time paramedics arrived on the scene, while the lions were shot dead, reportedly by a game ranger sent from a neighbouring reserve.
A spokesman for Ambu-Link, who attended, said: "We received a call of a lion attack and were told that the patient was unresponsive and that some of the lions had been shot.
"We were told there was a third lion nearby and that was shot to allow access to the patient but he had succumbed to his injuries and he was declared dead by medical personnel."
Van Biljon, who was also known as 'The Lion Man', had raised two male lions, Rmabo and Nakita, and lioness Katryn since they were cubs, and often walked and socialised with them.
According to the lodge's website, van Biljonalso offered 'exclusive lion lectures, feedings and game drives for guests'.
Van Biljon had recently put the lodge up for sale for £220,000 so he could retire.
A family member at the game lodge said they were too upset to comment.
However, a source at the lodge said: "Leon went in to fix the fence but knows the lions well and turned his back as he was fixing the fence and one came from behind and took his neck.
"You never turn your back on a lion.
"Leon is not as young and fit as he was and perhaps the lion saw the weakness in him as an old man. 'You have to remember that however your friendship is with lions there is wildness in them.
"They are predators and they never lose their natural instinct. Even the quietest house cat will kill given the chance.
"A member of staff saw what happened and said there was nothing anyone could have done to save him."
Captive Wildlife Watchdog posted on Facebook: "Yet another death caused by a lion raised by humans in captivity and used as an 'educational tool' for the public."
While Fiona Miles, director of FOUR PAWS animal welfare foundation, said all loss of life was tragic, she added: "However these attacks can be avoided by not allowing any unnecessary human-wildlife interaction and the fact remains that no matter how tame they may seem, lions remain instinctive.
"The predator's instinct will seek out certain characteristics and identify easy prey such as the small, weak, slow and sick.
"What seems to happen with captive animals where interaction is regular is that they reach a breaking point and lash out.
"About 60 per cent of attacks on humans due to predator interaction involve captive bred lions."
Featured Image Credit: Mahala View Lion Game Lodge/Facebook