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West Mathewson with one of his white lions. ©Lion Tree Top Lodge

West Mathewson of Lion Treetop Lodge near Hoedspruit was killed this morning by his white lions that are kept in cages for tourism purposes. 

Update 27 August 2020: A spokesperson for the grieving Mathewson family announced that “The lions are safe and will be forever loved and cared for as he (West) would have wanted”.

The same lions attacked two firewood collectors in 2017, and one of the victims died shortly afterwards.

According to their website, Lion Tree Top Lodge raised the white lions to educate people about the plight of lions in the wild. The website goes on to say: “Our facility will accommodate these animals for the rest of their lives. Local and overseas visitors will get a chance to view and photograph these beautiful animals and learn more about them”. Pictures on the website and Facebook show tourists walking with young white lions.

During a telephone discussion with Africa Geographic after the 2017 attack, West Mathewson stressed that these lions are friendly and not aggressive and that he walks with them 3-4 hours per day.

Tourist white lion encounters when the lions were adolescents ©Lion Tree Top Lodge

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