Playful, pet white lioness kills her owner accidentally

NEWS AND OPINION – SOUTH AFRICA: While playing with his pet, white female lions who he had raised from newborn kittens, West Mathewson, 68, was killed by one of them because “instincts got the better of one of them”. He was seriously injured and died on the way to hospital.

You know how you can get scratched or bitten when you play with a domestic cat? Well this is the adult lion equivalent. You can play with your lions too vigourously and it gets out of hand. I’m sure this lioness was simply playing but their strength is inherently dangerous to humans, a relatively feeble animal by comparison.

Mathewson and white lioness
Mathewson and white lioness. Photo: Bjorn Borg-Lunde Photography.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The incident occurred at Lion Tree Top Lodge outside Hoedspruit, near the Kruger National Park yesterday. The daughter of Mr Mathewson, Tehri, said that the lioness who killed him was aged five and that she would not be put down because of what had happened.

She said:

West loved those cats as much as his children and spent much of the day with them every day. They didn’t mean him any harm and it was just a tragic accident. They will continue to be loved and protected until the day they leave this earth.

As mentioned, he rescued the cubs when they were only days old and he reared them by hand. He charged visitors to interact with his pair of white lions. Comment: this is not considered ethical but it depends how he acquired them. We are not told, but if they were acquired from the wild then it is considered unethical unless their mother was killed and they were orphaned and it was impractical to release them back into the wild.

This is not the first time that this pair of white lionesses have been involved in a human death. In 2017 an employee at a neighbouring property died after the lionesses escapd from their enclosure and mauled him and another person as they collected wood.

At the time, Mr Mathewson said that they just wanted to play with the guy. He was under pressure to euthanise his pet lions but said that they were very friendly.

At least 40 similar attacks have occurred in South Africa over the past 10 years according to Louise de Waal of Blood Lions. He is campaigning to end the captive lion industry in the country.

Lions and other big cats, habituated or not, are not domestic animals, but are predators that don’t lose their wild instinct- Lousie de Waal.

Source: The Times newspaper – hard copy. Thank you.

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